Alexandra Avdeenko

I am Research Director at the Center for Evaluation and Development (C4ED)

and Research Affiliate at the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR).

I am Affiliate with the Chair of Econometrics, Department of Economics at the University of Mannheim and the Experimental Economics Group at the University of Heidelberg, where I am also a Lecturer in Economics.

I work in the field of Applied Microeconomics, in particular on Development Economics (with a focus on rigorous impact evaluations),

Political Economy, and Economics of Crime. Moreover, I am interested in studying research ethics.

CV

My CV can be downloaded HERE.

POLICY/ PRogram EVALUATIONS

I have designed and conducted numerous impact evaluations, trainings, and data collections,

among others in Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Montenegro, Sudan, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

I have been working with implementing partners such as UNICEF, UNDP, FAO, ACTED, ILO, NRSP, the World Bank, 3ie, the Green Climate Fund, and governments in the respective countries.

Some of the work resulted in academic research...

Research

My work has been published in the American Political Science Review, The World Bank Research Observer,

the Scandinavian Journal of Economics, the European Economic Review,

the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, and World Development.

Published/ Under Review

  • Adaptation to Climate Change in Pakistan: Impacts on Disaster Preparedness and Resilience (with M. Frölich). R&R Journal of the European Economic Association; Link to report.

With rising global temperatures and more frequent weather extremes, climate change adaptation is a necessary policy response to increase resilience. We study the impact of preparedness interventions that aim at increasing resilience to future natural disasters using a clustered randomized control trial in disaster-prone areas of Pakistan. Relying on evidence from a three-year household panel, we first show that the preparedness strategies were adapted by the villagers, i.a., shelters were strengthened, hygiene practices and the subjective feeling of preparedness improved. In the course of our investigation, one fifth of our study areas were affected by extreme monsoon-related flooding. We measure substantial improvement for food security and health outcomes for households that had previously been assigned to the climate adaptation measures. A cost-effectiveness analysis reveals that implementing climate change adaptation policies can be self-sustaining - an important finding in favor of adaptation strategies to address the consequences of climate change.


  • Research Standards in Empirical Development Economics: What's Well Begun, is Half Done (with M. Frölich), World Development. 2020. DOI

The 2019 Economics Nobel Laureates have shed light on how several disciplines can learn from each other to achieve a greater goal. Thanks to their work, economics has begun to follow the methodological and institutional path laid out, amongst others, in medical sciences. The prize creates a momentum in economics to work on areas in which the field still falls short of achievable, higher standards and on more rigor in research transparency, cooperation, and accountability. Yet we also argue that the benefits from the linkage between disciplines are not one-sided. The application and recognition of field experiments as a method in economics have also advanced and enlarged the methodological toolkit on topics such as quasi-experimental method, non-compliance, and mediation analysis. Methods urgently needed to address topics of global concern.

  • Underconfidence and the Use of Persuasive Messages in the Attainment of Savings Goals (with A. Bohne and M. Frölich), Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 2019. DOI

In this paper we investigate behavioral constraints to savings among smallholder farmers in rural Ethiopia. Increasing savings by overcoming such behavioral constraints has been documented to have positive effects on various outcomes such as health, education, and agricultural investments. We causally identify a strong increase in savings to a soft commitment device in the form of a moneybox with a regular savings plan. In our randomized field experiment, we also provide personalized feedback consisting of recommendations to self-set saving goals. These recommendations trigger increases in savings of up to 36 percent. In a detailed analysis of the behavioral characteristics driving these results, we find a strong and robust link between financial confidence and savings behavior. In particular, the savings of underconfident individuals are less than 2/3 of the savings of overconfident individuals — an association stronger than other behavioral traits such as risk-lovingness and present-biasedness. Remarkably, the effect of our personalized feedback is particularly strong for underconfident individuals. We discuss possible underlying mechanisms, rule out a set of alternative behavioral explanations, and address crowding-out behavior into other forms of saving.

  • Long-Term Evidence of Retrospective Voting: A Natural Experiment from the German Democratic Republic. European Economic Review, 103, April 2018. DOI

The paper investigates long-lasting electoral punishment. Decades of communist socialization and the repressive rule of a single-party have left their left-wing fingerprint on East Germany. In this paper we show that voters act rationally: given negative life circumstances experienced under the rule of the communist party, they display retrospective voting even decades later. Our insight is based on the analysis of 19 years of revealed and stated party preferences. We argue that life at the Border Region to West Germany was particularly hard and find that East German voters who lived close to the inner-German border before the reunification of the two states are 5.9 percentage points less likely to lean toward the successor party to East Germany’s communists. Given that over the years roughly every fifth person has revealed preferences for the communists in the East, this translates to over thirty percent reduction. We confirm the preferences with administrative data: The electoral punishment estimated at the district-level amounts to a reduction of 1.3 percentage points of votes for the party.

  • Intergenerational Correlations of Extreme Right-Wing Party Preferences and Attitudes toward Immigration (with T. Siedler) Scandinavian Journal of Economics, April 2017. DOI

In this paper, we analyze the importance of parental socialization on the development of children's far right‐wing preferences and attitudes toward immigration. Using longitudinal data from Germany, our intergenerational estimates suggest that the strongest and most important predictor for young people's right‐wing extremism are their parents' right‐wing extremist attitudes. While intergenerational associations in attitudes toward immigration are equally high for sons and daughters, we find a positive intergenerational transmission of right‐wing extremist party affinity for sons, but not for daughters. Compared to the intergenerational correlation of other party affinities, the high association between fathers' and sons' right‐wing extremist attitudes is particularly striking.

  • International Interventions to Build Social Capital: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Sudan (with M. Gilligan) American Political Science Review, 2015, 109 (03), 427–449. DOI. awarded: African Politics Conference Group Best Article in African Politics published in 2015 (issued by the American Political Science Association)

Increasingly the international community attempts to improve local public infrastructure in developing countries by creating more participatory local governance and social capital. We report on a randomized field experiment conducted in 24 communities (16 treated and 8 control) in rural Sudan. We offer a clearer theoretical statement of how these programs might alter the political landscape of the recipient villages. We measure norms using lab-in-the-field techniques and we measure network density with a survey of our 475 lab subjects. We appraise the participatory character of local governance and civic participation with a survey of 576 households. The program did not affect either networks or norms, but civic participation and the participatory nature of local governance increased. Thus we attribute the increase in citizen participation not to social capital growth but to more open local governing institutions.

  • Measuring Violent Conflict in Micro-level Surveys: Current Practices and Methodological Challenges (with T. Brück, P. Justino, P. Verwimp, A. Tedesco), The World Bank Research Observer, 2015. Link.

Working Papers

  • Changing Business Practices of Micro and Small Enterprises Evidence from an RCT with 12 Financial Service Providers (with M. Frölich, S. Helmsmüller) CEPR Working Paper DP 16265

Even with access to finance, few micro and small entrepreneurs grow their businesses professionally, possibly due to inefficient management. Using a randomized control trial, we measure the impact of a business training program frequently implemented worldwide. In Indonesia, the program worked with twelve large financial service providers who provided group training and/ or individual counseling to their clients. In line with the existing literature, we find no evidence of changes in business-related outcomes such as profits or sales. While most studies rely on evidence from few hundred entrepreneurs may suffer from lack of precision, a large sample size from a panel of 3,975 entrepreneurs provides us with more confidence in our zero findings. However, we also find that effects vary across partner institutions with one bank achieving significant behavioural changes associated with greater marketing knowledge. Being able to compare the results across a dozen banks and cooperatives, our evaluation provides a new argument in the ongoing “training doesn’t work” debate highlighting the role of partner selection in this and similar interventions.

Whether natural disasters affect risk preferences and behavior are critical empirical questions with implications for public policies and the insurance industry. This paper investigates whether the 2013 floods in Germany affected individual risk preferences, using nationally representative, longitudinal data set. Exploiting the circumstance that this weather phenomenon was unanticipated, we provide robust evidence that flood exposure made affected individuals more risk averse. The effect size corresponds to a 4.85 percent reduction from the pre-treatment mean, varies systematically between men and women, and is detectable up to four years after the shock. We show that this change is mediated by changes in well-being. Moreover, we discuss whether these changes in risk aversion may eventually reduce the costly moral hazard problem in climate change mitigation policies. In particular, we document that the selection on in risk aversion leads to a higher uptake in life insurances in high-risk areas.

available upon request:

  • How informed is consent? Evidence from a field experiment

With the claim to improve the lives of the poor and vulnerable, economists increasingly apply field experiments to advance economic research and inform policy. We investigate informational constraints to providing consent to participate in research. We show that survey participants in rural Pakistan are insufficiently informed about important aspects of their consent. Only about every fifth person understands the purpose of the data collection. We experimentally test an interactive, audio-visually supported approach to obtain consent within a survey data collection with 3,964 participants. We find that the alternative presentation improves the understanding of the voluntary nature of participation. Beyond ethical aspects, the study addresses methodological implications. We investigate changes in response behavior with potential implications for the external validity of survey based research and thereupon based policies. Status: Study ongoing. Data collection incomplete.

  • How important are Firm Visits for High School Students? Evidence from a Randomized-Control Trial

How early should labor market exposure start? Internships become an essential element of numerous school and university curricula, justified with an anticipated improvement in later occupational choices and job placements. For high school students there is, however, little evidence that short-term impacts are positive. This study evaluates a unique youth labor market pilot initiative. Over 50 companies have been mobilized to host high-school students who were randomly selected for firm visits. During then received on-the-job introductory trainings on work and hiring practices. Eventually, students’ subjective beliefs were updated. Expectations of entry level wages dropped by over 12% as compared to the control group. The companystudent match was random within geographical proximity, allowing to rule out further self-selection into firm choices and estimating sector-specific effects. Students adjusted their occupational preferences, selfperception, and grades in line with the labor market requirements. Role models and parental background play an important role for female students’ occupational preferences, who are also less likely to dropout of school. The study adds to a literature stressing that when information interventions are implemented at an early yet very decisive age, the average impacts on beliefs and educational performance can be considerable.

  • Rapid COVID-19-Evidence for Rapid Action: Pakistan

  • Improving Adolescents' Lives in South Asia - Multi-Country Impact Evaluation in Pakistan and India. Endlines ongoing. Call

  • The Freedom of Others: On Behavioral Responses to Mass-Releases from Prison in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany)

  • Muslim Adolescents and Authority

Selected Reports/ Policy Briefs

  • Evidence on Covid-19 Pandemic Control Interventions and their Impacts on Health-Related Outcomes. Background policy brief for the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Download here (w. E. Heesemann)

  • Identifying Conflict and Violence in Micro-Level Surveys (with T. Brück, P. Justino, P. Verwimp), IZA Discussion Paper, 5067, 2010. Background paper to the World Development Report 2011.

Refereeing

American Political Science Review, British Journal of Political Science, European Economic Review, Economic Journal, Public Choice, The Scandinavian Journal of Economics