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Construction Workers
Race-related Research in Economics: Volume, Content and Publication Incentives
joint with Arun Advani (Warwick), Elliott Ash (ETH Zurich), Anton Boltachka (ETH Zurich) and David Cai (LSE)
February 2024

Abstract Issues of racial justice and economic inequalities across racial and ethnic groups have risen to the top of public debate. Economists' ability to contribute to these debates is based on the body of race-related research. We study the volume and content of race-related research in economics and examine the implicit incentives to produce such work. We do so for a corpus of 225,000 economics publications from 1960 to 2020 to which we apply an algorithmic approach to classify race-related work, and construct paths to publication for 22,000 NBER and 10,000 CEPR working papers posted over the last few decades. We present three new facts. First, since 1960 less than 2% of economics publications have been race-related, with such work being balkanized into a few fields and largely absent from many others. There is an uptick in such work in the mid 1990s. Among the top-5 journals this is driven by the AER, QJE and the JPE. Econometrica and the REStud have each cumulatively published fewer than 15 race-related articles since 1960. Second, on content, while over 50% of race-related publications in the 1970s focused on Black individuals, by the 2010s this had fallen to 20%. There has been a steady decline in the share of race-related research on discrimination since the 1980s, with a rise in the share of studies on identity. Finally, irrespective of field, race-related working papers do not have worse publication outcomes compared to non race-related working papers, in terms of publication likelihood, quality of publication, publication lags and citations. Hence conditional on working papers being produced, the publications process provides little disincentive to work on race-related issues. We discuss policy implications stemming from our findings on economists' ability to contribute to debates on race and ethnicity in the economy.

Safe Spaces for Teenage Girls in a Time of Crisis
joint with Oriana Bandiera (LSE), Niklas Buehren (World Bank), Markus Goldstein (World Bank) and Andrea Smurra (UCL)
January 2024

Abstract Adolescent girls face disadvantages across the developing world stemming from limited agency over their bodies and barriers to investing in their human capital. We study how these outcomes are shaped in times of aggregate crisis, in the context of the 2014-6 Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. This is a setting in which adolescent girls have long faced disadvantage because of a high prevalence of sexual exploitation and violence towards them. Our study is based around an evaluation of a club-based intervention for young women implemented during the epidemic. We track 2700 girls aged 12-18 from the eve of the epidemic in 2014 to just prior to when Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free in 2016. The club-based intervention provides a safe space where girls can spend time away from men, receive advice on reproductive health, vocational training and/or microfinance. During the epidemic all schools were closed. We show that without the protection of time in school, in control villages teenage girls spent more time with men, pregnancy rates rose sharply, and their school enrolment dropped post-epidemic. The provision of a safe space breaks this causal chain: it enables girls in treated villages to allocate time away from men and reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies. These effects are more pronounced where girls lose access to other available safe spaces during the epidemic, where the intervention also increases school re-enrolment rates post-epidemic. To further pin down mechanisms, we exploit a second layer of randomization of input bundles offered by clubs. This reinforces the idea that the safe space component is critical to driving outcomes for teenage girls. Our analysis has implications for school closures during health crisis in contexts where young women face sexual violence, highlighting the protective and lasting role safe spaces can provide in such times.

Big Push Pro-poor Policies and Economic Attitudes: Evidence from a Partial Population Experiment
joint with Adnan.Q.Khan (LSE), Nicolas Cerkez (UCL) and Anam Schoaib (CERP)
November 2023

Abstract Big push pro-poor policies have been shown to cause lasting improvements in the economic outcomes of beneficiaries. In this paper we move beyond economic impacts to study whether such interventions impact three interlinked economic attitudes towards redistribution, markets, and neighbors. We do so using an experiment tracking 15,600 rural households in Punjab, Pakistan. Villages are randomly assigned to receive an intervention where the poor are either offered a one-time asset transfer of value $620 or an equivalent valued one-off unconditional cash transfer. Within treated villages, we randomize which of the eligible poor actually receive the transfer. Our partial population experiment tracks treated poor, not treated poor and not poor households for four years. The treated poor have immediate gains in economic outcomes following the transfers, with gains persisting, but not accumulating further. The interventions also cause persistent reductions in village consumption inequality. Given this backdrop, we examine impacts on economic attitudes. Two-years post intervention, the treated poor are less likely to favor redistribution, hold stronger pro-market beliefs, and have increased trust and security with neighbors. This pattern of impacts also holds for the not treated poor (despite them being overtaken by the treated poor in economic standing) and the not poor. Hence shifts in attitudes do not depend on whether households are direct beneficiaries, but are rather shaped by village-wide exposure to pro-poor policies. Four-years post intervention, the attitudes of all groups no longer differ from controls. We provide suggestive evidence that shifts in attitudes do not persist because they are driven by changes in economic outcomes, not their levels.

Legacies of Conflict: Self-efficacy and the Formation of Conditional Trust
joint with Niklas Buehren (World Bank), Markus Goldstein (World Bank) and Andrea Smurra (UCL)
September 2023

Abstract Exposure to armed conflict in early life is a traumatic experience, affecting 400 million children worldwide. We combine theory, measurement and evidence to study how psychological legacies of conflict mediate the relationship between exposure to conflict and the long-run formation of trust preferences. Our analysis is based on a sample of 4,200 women born during the Sierra Leonean civil war and surveyed 14 years later. We first introduce the notion of conditional trust in one-off anonymized exchange. We then develop a framework formalizing the link between exposure to conflict and trust. This makes precise what individuals have in mind when expressing conditional trust in others, and establishes the roles of post-traumatic growth and self-efficacy in linking conflict and trust. Taking the predictions to data, we show that exposure to conflict significantly increases self-efficacy, and through this channel, conflict leads conditional trust to rise and for outright trust of others to fall, relative to those never exposed to conflict. To further microfound how exposure to conflict translates into psychological legacies, we construct a granular typology of experiences of conflict, combining information on exposure to conflict, recall of victimization, and ages of exposure to conflict. We use this to show how direct exposure, memories and trauma, and narratives of conflict from others each distinctively shape self-efficacy. Finally, we show how our model and evidence can help reconcile heterogeneous findings across conflict scenarios, and suggests avenues for future work on the more general role of psychological legacies from traumatic shocks early in life on the long-run formation of economic preferences.

Revisions requested, Journal of Political Economy: Micro.

Families as Drivers of Inequality: Experimental Evidence from an Early Childhood Intervention
joint with Pedro Carneiro (UCL) and Francesca Salvati (Essex)
March 2023

Abstract Families shape inequality across individuals, by determining whether initial endowment differences across children are magnified or equalized through the intrahousehold allocation of resources over time. We study the link between early life circumstances, parental investments and child outcomes, over time and across multiple siblings in families in rural Northern Nigeria, where households reside in extreme poverty and sibling rivalry effects can be first order. We do so by evaluating a pre-natal intervention providing information and cash transfers to families triggered by the verified pregnancy of a target child. We track outcomes and child-specific parental inputs across older and younger siblings of the target child in 3600 families over four years. We find that unlike for the target child, stunting outcomes for older siblings do not improve, because they are too old when the intervention begins to gain from it in terms of height. We also document muted gains on height for younger siblings, and show this is because of endogenous responses to the intervention through shorter birth spacing between the target child and younger siblings, labor supply responses of mothers, and fade out of knowledge on specific peri-natal practices. However, on a raft of other outcomes such as health, nutrition and parental inputs more relevant outside the first 1000-days of life window, outcomes significantly shift forward for all siblings. Our results show parents behave as if to equalize inputs across siblings, despite differences in their physical endowments. Calculating the annualized IRR to the intervention based on this fuller set of family impacts, leads them to rise ten-fold over those based on target child outcomes alone.

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