Selected Active Projects:
Sports Betting: Working Paper
I first became aware of sports betting while spending time in Liberia. Every street corner had groups of young men, discussing and debating international football games and fervently placing bets on the day's matches. In Monrovia, a city with limited new investments and capital, it was striking to see international organizations flooding the market with electronic betting consoles linking local vendors to international betting odds. After getting to know and talking with many of the bettors themselves, it quickly became clear that these young men were spending considerable portions of their weekly income on sports betting (8-15%). With high expected losses from participation (~35-50%), I wanted to understand both the causes and consequences of such high levels of participation in economically disadvantaged populations. I was later forced to shift the project to Uganda where I saw a nearly identical system of sports betting with similar levels of popularity and intensity. Field work was conducted from September 2015-July 2016.
The paper looks at the tension between betting and saving as competing strategies of liquidity generation in pursuit of large, lumpy expenditures.
Insecurity and Industrial Organization: Evidence from Afghanistan (with Josh Blumenstock, Tarek Ghani, Ethan Kapstein, Tom Scherer, and Ott Toomet): Working Paper
We provide new evidence on how insecurity affects firm location choice by linking data on violent outbreaks in Afghanistan to geo-stamped corporate mobile phone records. We first show that phone data can be used to measure the activity of private firms and validate our approach with administrative and survey data for 2,306 Afghan firms. Next, we find that major terrorist attacks reduce the presence of firms in targeted districts by 4-6%. The effect is driven by both an increase in the exit of existing firms following attacks as well as a decrease in entry of new firms. We find evidence of regional heterogeneity and spillovers whereby responses to attacks are largest in provincial capitals and also spill over into surrounding rural districts. Employees in capitals are 33% more likely to move to Kabul and 17% more likely to leave for another province when exposed to attacks. Finally, our results are heterogeneous by firm size. Larger firms show greater responsiveness to attacks, with implications for the composition of firms operating in districts affected by insecurity.
Sport for Development? A Randomized Control Trial among Vulnerable Youth in Liberia (with Lori Beaman, Niall Keleher, and Jeremy Magruder): Working Paper
Over the past two decades, sports programs have proliferated as a form of direct intervention as well as a mode of engaging youth in development projects. Thousands of organizations, millions of participants, and hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in sports based development programs each year. The underlying belief that sports promote socioemotional skills, psychological well-being, and foster traits that boost employability has provided motivation to expand funding and offerings of sports for development (SFD) programs. Through a randomized control trial in Monrovia, Liberia, we assess the impact of a sports and non-cognitive skills development
program for vulnerable youth. Our results do not show evidence of improved psychosocial behaviors. However, we do see a 0.115 standard deviation increase in an index of labor market outcomes for those randomly assigned to participate. While we are unable to isolate the mechanism of these impacts, we find that the effects are strongest among those likely to be most disadvantaged in the labor market.
Marriage Markets and Income Shocks (with Marieke Kleemans):
We look at both ex-ante and ex-post responses to income volatility in household marriage market decisions. Inter-household linkages and risk-coping networks are particularly important in areas without complete insurance mechanisms and creation of risk-mitigating household linkages may be reflected in marriage partner selection. Where insurance remains incomplete and in societies where financial burdens associated with marriage are asymmetric, large correlated income shocks, such as those from rainfall, can shift both the supply and demand for brides in a marriage market with predictions on marriage timing and marriage-linked migration affected by marriage market structure. We test for evidence of these factors using data from Indonesia.
Conception and Contraceptives in Times of Drought: Draft Available on Request
The ability of parents to adjust the timing of conception away from those of financial hardship has important implications for the well-being of their children and overall households. This paper looks at whether droughts affect timing of conception among agriculture-dependent rural populations across Africa. In addition, I examine impacts on contraceptive usage in order to show that responses are, at least in part, the result of intentional choices made by parents and not exclusively the byproduct of other physiological or shock-coping responses.
Income Variability, Evolving Diets, and Elasticity Estimation of Demand for Processed Foods in Nigeria (with Alan de Brauw): Working Paper
We present evidence on evolving dietary patterns in Nigeria using six rounds of household consumption data from the Nigerian Living Standards and Measurement Surveys between the years of 2011 and 2016. First, following conventional definitions in the literature, we show that Nigeria has not shown any aggregate increase in consumption of highly processed foods over this time period, contrary to patterns observed elsewhere in the region. In fact, consumption of highly processed foods at home has decreased, while food consumed away from home, often assumed to be highly processed, has risen substantially. We then show that estimates of food expenditure elasticities of different food types are highly sensitive to different estimation approaches, raising concerns regarding the existing evidence base on food consumption patterns reliant on these types of estimates. Different frequently used specification choices can lead to conclusions that either highly processed foods or unprocessed foods are the most elastic, with dramatically different policy implications. In our preferred specifications, we find that elasticity of demand for food away from home is highest for the relatively wealthy and in the urban South, although it is higher within households in times of relative scarcity, suggesting that they cut these expenditures when resources are constrained.