Fall 2017

IFPRI’s Applied Microeconomics & Development Seminar Series provides a forum for researchers to present top-quality applied microeconomics and development work. Seminars are held on the first and third Thursdays of each month at IFPRI’s Washington DC office, located at 2033 K St. NW.

September 21
Speaker: Belinda Archibong, Faculty Affiliate at Columbia University
12:00-1:15 pm
Conference Room 7AB
Harmattan Winds, Disease and Gender Gaps in Human Capital Investment
Persistent gender gaps in educational attainment have been examined in the context of differential parental costs of investment in the education of boys versus girls. This paper examines whether disease burdens, especially prevalent in the tropics, contribute significantly to widening gender gaps in educational attainments. We estimate the impact of sudden exposure to the 1986 meningitis epidemic in Niger on girls’ education relative to boys. Our results suggest that increases in meningitis cases during epidemic years significantly reduce years of education disproportionately for school-aged going girls in areas with higher meningitis exposure. There is no significant effect for boys in the same cohort and no effects of meningitis exposure for non-epidemic years. We use theory to explore different channels, highlighting income effects of epidemics on households and early marriage of girls in areas with higher exposure during epidemic years. We also use National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) data to analyze heterogeneous effects of meningitis epidemics by Harmattan season intensity and explore how climate change could potentially worsen social inequality through widening the gender gap in human capital investment. Our findings have broader implications for climate-induced disease effects on social inequality.

October 5
Speaker: Marc Bellemare, Associate Professor at University of Minnesota
12:00-1:15 pm
Conference Room 7AB
Producer Attitudes to Output Price Risk: Evidence from the Lab and from the Field
In a seminal article, Sandmo (1971) showed that when faced with an uncertain output price, a risk-averse firm manager would hedge against price risk by producing less than she would have had she been faced with a certain output price equal to the mean of the uncertain output price distribution. In a follow-up article, Batra and Ullah (1974) showed that the firm manager further decreases her production level in response to increases in risk if her preferences exhibit decreasing absolute relative risk aversion (DARA). We bring both of those theoretical predictions to the lab and to the field. Based on an experimental setup that exactly mimics Sandmo’s theoretical framework, we first study the effect of price risk on production relative to price certainty. Then, we study the effect of mean-preserving spreads of the price distribution on production. We find that our subjects increase their production in response to price risk at the extensive margin but decrease their production in response to price risk at the intensive margin. If expected utility theory is an accurate representation of behavior, our results suggest that our subjects are risk-loving but that their preferences exhibit DARA. Eliciting our subjects’ risk preferences by way of a Holt-Laury list experiment, we find that our subjects are not risk-loving, and we find little to no support for the the hypothesis that their preferences exhibit DARA. Looking at a number of alternative theories, we find that prospect theory explains our subjects’ behavior. Lastly, estimates derived from a structural model of producer behavior in the face of price risk show that our subjects have heterogeneous price risk preferences.

October 19
Speaker: Kyle Emerick, Assistant Professor at Tufts University
12:00-1:15 pm
Conference Room 7AB
The labor market impacts of agricultural technology
We use a randomized experiment with a new agricultural technology to study village labor markets in rural India. We first introduced a new drought-tolerant seed variety in a random set of villages and then tracked labor market outcomes over three years. Technological change is shown to benefit workers by increasing labor demand and therefore increasing agricultural employment. However, these effects are short lived because the new seed variety is found to be unprofitable for farmers. By the third year of the experiment we find positive treatment effects on non-agricultural employment — suggesting that non-agricultural work provides a buffer for workers displaced by disappearing farm jobs.
View the presentation here

November 2
Speaker: Siwan Anderson, Associate Professor at University of British Columbia
12:00-1:15 pm
Conference Room 7AB
Legal Origins and Female HIV
More than half of all people living with HIV are women and 80% of all HIV positive women in the world live in Sub-Saharan Africa. This paper demonstrates that the legal origins of these formerly colonized countries significantly determines current day female HIV rates. In particular, female HIV rates are significantly higher in common law Sub-Saharan African countries compared to civil law ones. This paper explains this relationship by focusing on differences in female property rights under the two codes of law. In Sub-Saharan Africa, common law is associated with weaker female marital property laws. As a result, women in these common law countries have lower bargaining power within the household and are less able to negotiate safe sex practices and are thus more vulnerable to HIV, compared to their civil law counterparts. Exploiting the fact that some ethnic groups in Sub-Saharan Africa cross country borders with different legal systems, we are able to include ethnicity fixed effects into a regression discontinuity approach. This allows us to control for a large set of cultural, geographical, and environmental factors that could be confounding the estimates. The results of this paper are consistent with gender inequality (the ‘feminization of AIDS’) explaining much of its prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa.
View the presentation here.

November 16
Speaker: Cristian Pop-Eleches, Associate Professor at Columbia University
12:00-1:15 pm
Conference Room 7AB
Parental Monitoring and Children’s Internet Use: The Role of Information, Control, and Cues
This paper explores how asymmetric information between parents and children and direct parental controls can influence children’s internet use in Chile. We designed and implemented a set of randomized interventions whereby approximately 7700 parents were sent weekly SMSs messages with (i) specific information about their children’s internet use, and/or (ii) encouragement and assistance with the installation of parental control software. We separate the informational content from the cue associated with SMS messages and vary the strength of the cues by randomly assigning whether parents received messages in a predictable or unpredictable fashion. Our analysis yields three main findings. First, we find that messages providing parents with specific information reduce children’s internet use by 6-10 percent and help parents mitigate the problem of asymmetric information in the household. Second, we do not find significant impacts from helping parents directly control their children’s internet access with parental control software. Third, the strength or salience of the cue associated with receiving a message has an independent impact on internet use.

November 30
Speaker: Lori Beaman, Associate Professor at Northwestern University
12:00-1:15 pm
Conference Room 7AB
Diffusion of Agricultural Information within Social Networks: Evidence on Gender Inequalities from Mali
Social networks are an important mechanism for diffusing information when formal institutions are missing, but there may be distributional consequences from targeting only central nodes in a network. After implementing a social network census, one of three village-level treatments determined which treated nodes in the village received information about composting: random assignment, nodes with the highest degree, or nodes with high betweenness. We find information diffusion declines with social distance, suggesting frictions in the diffusion of information, but aggregate knowledge about the technology did not differ across targeting strategies. However, targeting nodes using betweeness measures in village-level networks does exclude less-connected nodes from new information. Women farmers are less likely to receive information when betweeness centrality is used in targeting, suggesting there are important gender differences in the social learning process.
View the presentation here.

December 7
Speaker: Katherine Casey, Associate Professor at Stanford University
12:00-1:15 pm
Conference Room 7AB
Institutions and Technocratic Skill in Local Economic Development
Decades of unaccountable leadership, conflict and underdevelopment have limited the reach of the state into rural Sierra Leone and left communities with a dearth of public services. This project explores two distinct mechanisms to bridge the gap between communities and government. The first evaluates the long run effects of a community driven development (CDD) program, which devolved financial and implementation control over public services to communities, accompanied by intensive social facilitation. The second assesses a low cost technocratic alternative that identifies and supports high competence community members to take better advantage of development programs offered by government. It leverages local talent, addresses information barriers, and augments existing managerial capital with basic training in project management. A third component elicits expert beliefs about the efficacy of these two approaches, assesses their forecast accuracy, and evaluates how beliefs change in response to new information.

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