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kate.orkin[at]merton.ox.ac.uk
Merton College, Merton Street
Oxford, OX1 4JD
United Kingdom





I am the Peter J. Braam Junior Research Fellow in Global Wellbeing at Merton College and a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Centre for the Study of African Economiesin the Department of Economics at the University of Oxford. I am an affiliate at the Busara Centre for Behavioural Economics in Nairobi and the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit at the University of Cape Town.

I work in political economy and applied microeconomics in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa. My research uses lab and field experiments and longitudinal data to examine how expectations about the future and beliefs about one's own ability are formed and how they affect economic and political decisions. 

Some of my PhD work showed that people's aspirations and beliefs about their own competence affect their economic choices. We showed farmers in remote villages in rural Ethiopia low-cost motivational documentaries about people from similar backgrounds who had been successful. These improved their aspirations and sense of control and increased whether they made future-oriented investments in their children's education, in agricultural technology like fertiliser and high-yield seed, and in durable assets and livestock. 


One strand of my current research examines how information interventions alter beliefs about oneself and expectations about the future, and, in turn, political and economic behaviour. Projects in urban South Africa examine:
  • How providing information on the likely outcome of elections from polls affects voter behaviour.
  • Whether giving unemployed youth information about their cognitive and non-cognitive skills changes their job-search behaviour and firms' hiring and productivity.
A second strand of research examines the economic, social and political effects of unconditional cash transfer programmes. 
  • In 420 Kenyan villages, we explore, using a multi-arm randomised controlled trial, the effect of relaxing financial constraints (through an unconditional $1000 GiveDirectly cash transfer), psychological constraints (through a goal-setting intervention), and external and internal constraints simultaneously.
  • In partnership with a neighbouring cash transfer trial, we study whether large income shocks affect group membership, civic participation and political attitudes. 
  • We also survey non-recipients to explore whether transfers reduce village-level inequality in income and wealth.