Working Papers

Low agricultural productivity is a persistent challenge for developing economies. Two policy innovations that have attracted significant attention include the expansion of rural roads and agricultural extension services that facilitate access to technologies and inputs. However, the studies that examine each of these policies in isolation provide mixed evidence on their effectiveness. This paper shows that it is important to consider roads and extension simultaneously due to the strong complementarities between the two factors. I study the concurrent but independently implemented expansion of rural roads and extension in Ethiopia to examine how access to markets and technologies affect productivity when available in isolation and together. Using geo-spatial data combined with large surveys and exploiting the staggered roll-out of the two programs, I show that there are strong complementarities between roads and extension. While ineffective in isolation, access to both a road and extension increases productivity by 6%. I find that roads and extension improve productivity by facilitating the take up of agricultural advice, credit and modern inputs such as chemical fertilizers. Furthermore, households adjust crop choices and shift across occupations in response to their changing comparative advantages in access to markets and technologies. Overall, while extension and roads increase farm income on average, the gains are concentrated in the villages that have access to both factors.
Frontier Culture: The Roots and Persistence of “Rugged Individualism” in the United States (with Sam Bazzi and   Martin Fiszbein)    
          Revise & Resubmit, Econometrica.
           [NBER WP23997]
The presence of a westward-moving frontier of settlement shaped early U.S. history. In 1893, the historian Frederick Jackson Turner famously argued that the American frontier fostered individualism. We investigate the Frontier Thesis and identify its long-run implications for culture and politics. We track the frontier throughout the 1790–1890 period and construct a novel, county-level measure of total frontier experience (TFE). Historically, frontier locations had distinctive demographics and greater individualism. Long after the closing of the frontier, counties with greater TFE exhibit more pervasive individualism and opposition to redistribution. This pattern cuts across known divides in the U.S., including urban–rural and north–south. We provide suggestive evidence on the roots of frontier culture: selective migration, an adaptive advantage of self-reliance, and perceived opportunities for upward mobility through effort. Overall, our findings shed new light on the frontier’s persistent legacy of rugged individualism.
Work in Progress  

Industrial Policy and Misallocation in the Ethiopian Manufacturing Sector

Frontier Culture, Economic Shocks and Mortality (with Samuel Bazzi and Martin Fiszbein)

Industrial Policy and Development: Evidence from Ethiopia (with Ameet Morjaria)

Mesay Melese Gebresilasse,
Nov 8, 2018, 6:49 AM
mesay melese,
May 14, 2019, 4:03 AM
Mesay Melese Gebresilasse,
Jan 17, 2019, 9:30 AM