kate.orkin[at]bsg.ox.ac.uk

I am a Senior Research Fellow in Behavioural Economics at the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford.

My work is in behavioural, labour and development economics, with projects in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and South Africa. One strand of research examines how information interventions alter beliefs about oneself and expectations about the future, and, in turn, economic and political behaviour. Some work in draft shows:

  • Giving unemployed youth information about their relative place in the skills distribution and enabling them to share this information credibly (on certified reports) with employers increases employment and wages.
  • Showing farmers motivational documentaries about successful people from similar backgrounds makes them more likely to make future-oriented investments.
  • Providing information on the likely outcome of elections from polls affects voter beliefs, turnout, party choice and party evaluation.

I'm currently writing up work examining 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 transfers 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.


With Professor Stefan Dercon, I lead the Mind and Behaviour Research Group in the Centre for the Study of African Economies, hosted by the Blavatnik School. This is a network of economists, psychiatrists and psychologists applying psychology to inform the design of programmes which either reduce poverty or improve governance and service delivery in low- and middle-income countries. One of the group's aims is to develop and test scalable, high-impact interventions that can be used in programming and to support governments and NGOs in taking interventions to scale. My teams have worked closely with national and local governments and NGOs, including GiveDirectly, the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and BRAC, to co-design and cost interventions.

Recently, we've worked with Harambee to pilot scaling up the 'reports' intervention in their Johannesburg and Rwanda offices.

We'll be hosting the BREAD conference on Behavioural Economics and Development from 5-7 February 2020 in Oxford -- programme out shortly.

We hosted a master class and workshop on Meta-analysis in Development Economics in July 2019. Videos and slides from all speakers are available on the site.