"Pay for locally monitored performance? A welfare analysis for teacher attendance in Ugandan primary schools" (with Jacobus Cilliers, Ibrahim Kasirye, Clare Leaver, and Pieter Serneels). Journal of Public Economics, 167, pp. 69-90, November 2018.
"Small price incentives increase women's access to land titles in Tanzania" (with Daniel Ali Ayalew, Matthew Collin, Klaus Deininger, Stefan Dercon, and Justin Sandefur). Journal of Development Economics, 123:6, pp. 107--122, November 2016.
- Previously circulated as BREAD working paper no. 420, "The price of empowerment: Experimental evidence on land titling in Tanzania'.
"Benchmarking a child nutrition program against cash: Experimental evidence from Rwanda" (with Craig McIntosh).
Abstract: We present the results of a study designed to 'benchmark' a major USAID-funded child malnutrition program against what would have occurred if the cost of the program had simply been disbursed directly to beneficiaries to spend as they see fit. Using a three-armed trial from 248 villages in Rwanda, the study measures impacts on households containing poor or underweight children, or pregnant or lactating women, as well as the broader population of study villages. We find that the bundled health program delivers benefits in an outcome directly targeted by specific sub-components of the intervention (savings), but does not improve household dietary diversity, child anthropometrics, or anemia within the year of the study. A cost-equivalent cash transfer boosts productive asset investment and allows households to pay down debt. The bundled program is significantly better in cost-equivalent terms at generating savings and worse for debt reduction, while cost-equivalent cash drives more asset investment. A much larger cash transfer of more than \$500 per household improves a wide range of consumption measures including dietary diversity, as well as savings, assets, and housing values. Only the large cash transfer shows evidence of moving child outcomes, with significant but modest improvements in child height-for-age, weight-for-age, and mid upper-arm circumference (about 0.1 SD). The results indicate that programs targeted towards driving specific outcomes can do so at lower cost than cash, but large cash transfers drive substantial benefits across a wide range of impacts, including many of those targeted by the more tailored program.
"The demand for insurance under limited credibility: Evidence from Kenya" (with Stefan Dercon and Jan Willem Gunning).
Abstract: The low demand for microinsurance products observed in recent studies is characterized by two stylized facts: first, demand is negatively correlated with measures of risk aversion, in contrast to simple models; and second, demand is positively associated with measures of trust. In this paper we develop a model of the demand for indemnity insurance that explains both of these stylized facts, based on the idea that individuals have limited trust in the credibility of the insurer's promise to deliver a payment in the event of an indemnified loss. The model has the further testable implication that, when trust in insurer credibility is heterogeneous across individuals, those with low trust are more sensitive to variation in premium costs. We test and find support for the predictions of this model using data from a randomized, controlled trial of composite health microinsurance product among tea growers in Nyeri, Kenya. To do so we combine experimental variation in prices with measures of risk preferences and trusting behavior from a laboratory experiment conducted in the field at baseline. The results suggest scope for policies that increase insurance purchases by improving potential clients' confidence in the enforceability of the insurance contract.
Abstract: Adoption rates of apparently high return agricultural technologies are puzzlingly low in many developing countries. While recent work has suggested that these high average returns are consistent with substantial heterogeneity, relatively little is known about the mechanisms that relate adoption decisions to heterogeneity in realized returns. In this paper, I derive distinct predictions for models in which this relationship is driven by precautionary savings and by learning -- mechanisms with distinct policy implications. These are tested using unique data on the Cocoa Abrabopa Association, which provided a package of fertilizer and other inputs on credit to cocoa farmers in Ghana. Exploiting the expansion of the program to identify impacts, I find high but heterogeneous returns. Low experienced returns among adopters are associated with low program retention rates, and patterns of returns and adoption support the hypothesis that disadoption by farmers who experience low returns is driven by learning rather than precaution. This learning mechanism is also seen in the relationship between measures of subjective expectations and output realizations. Taking into account subjective uncertainty in the learning process, structural estimates suggest that farmers' choices are consistent with reasonable levels of risk aversion.
"Information and collective action in community monitoring of schools: Field and lab experimental evidence from Uganda" (with Abigail Barr, Frederick Mugisha, and Pieter Serneels). Paper presented at the 'Young Talent' session of the Royal Economic Society Annual Conference.
Abstract: Community-based monitoring of public services provides a possible solution to accountability problems when state oversight is limited. However, the mechanisms through which such policies can be effective are not well understood. Are community-monitoring interventions successful because they improve information alone, or do they also need to overcome collective action problems? We investigate this question by implementing a combined field and lab experiment in 100 Ugandan primary schools, which randomly assigns schools and their Management Committees (SMCs) either to standard community-based monitoring, to a participatory variation that addresses coordination problems, or to a control group. We find substantial impacts of the participatory treatment on pupil test scores as well as pupil and teacher absenteeism, while the standard treatment has small and insignificant effects, and we develop a test using randomization inference to show that differences in these outcomes between treated groups are statistically significant. Combining this evidence with SMC member behavior in laboratory games, we find evidence that improved collective action explains these differences. The results have implications for the design of community-based monitoring policies, and help to explain their variable effectiveness across contexts.
"Conflict of interest as a barrier to local accountability" (with Abigail Barr).
Abstract: Using a specially designed lab-type experiment conducted in the field, we compare the willingness of head teachers, centrally appointed public servants, and community representatives to hold Ugandan primary school teachers to account. We find no difference in the willingness of centrally appointed public servants and community representatives. However, head teachers are significantly less willing to punish teachers whose performance falls 20 to 40 percent below a generally accepted benchmark. In addition, head teachers are twice as likely to punish teachers who 'over-perform', a behaviour akin to punishing rate-busters.
Abstract: This paper tests the external validity of a simple Dictator Game as a laboratory analogue for a naturally occurring policy-relevant decision-making context. In Uganda, where teacher absenteeism is a problem, primary school teachers’ allocations to parents in a Dictator Game are positively but weakly correlated with their time allocations to teaching and, so, negatively correlated with their absenteeism. Guided by a simple theoretical model, we find that the correlation can be improved by allowing for (a) variations in behavioural reference points across teachers and schools and (b) the positive effect of some School Management Committees on teacher attendance.
Research papers and field experiments in progress
"Selection and motivation effects of pay-for-performance in Rwandan schools", with Clare Leaver, Owen Ozier, and Pieter Serneels.
"Evaluating an innovative audit strategy in Rwanda", with Nada Eissa and Francois Gerard.
"Fiscal impacts of a presumptive tax for microenterprises in Rwanda" (with Nada Eissa and Sally Murray). International Growth Centre policy paper no. I-38113-RWA-1, July 2017.
"Management and motivation in Ugandan primary schools: Impact evaluation final report" (with Lawrence Bategeka, Madina Guloba, Ibrahim Kasirye, and Frederick Mugisha), 2011.
- iiG Policy Brief (here)
- Coverage in Ugandan print media: New Vision (December 7, 2011 - Article; December 7, 2011 - Op-ed; December 8, 2011 - Op-ed); Daily Monitor (December 7, 2011 - Article).
"Impacs of group-based microfinance in agriculture: Evidence from Ghana's Cocoa Abrabopa Association (with Stefano Caria, Richman Dzene, Emmanuel Opoku, Petr Jansky, and Francis Teal), 2011.
“The Provision of Social Services in Fragile States: Independent Service Authorities as a New Modality” (with Tessa Bold and Paul Collier), 2010.
Review of Agricultural Strategy in Ethiopia (with Stefan Dercon and Ruth Hill):
“In search of a strategy: Revisiting Agriculture-led growth in Ethiopia” (with Stefan Dercon and Ruth Hill). Synthesis Paper for study on Agriculture and Growth in Ethiopia, commissioned by the UK Department for International Development and the Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, 2009.
“Rethinking agriculture and growth in Ethiopia: A Conceptual Discussion” (with Stefan Dercon). Paper prepared for study on Agriculture and Growth in Ethiopia, commissioned by the UK Department for International Development and the Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, 2009.
Miscellaneous published work
Co-editor, special issue on "Impact Evaluation in Africa" (with Marcel Fafchamps), Journal of African Economies, 2012.
Dual economies (with David Vines), in Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E.Blume, eds., The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd edition. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.