Working Papers

"Defusing a Population Explosion? Jobs and Fertility in sub-Saharan Africa" (Job Market Paper) [new draft coming soon]

This study leverages micro data from 179 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) to shed light on a macro puzzle: conditional on GDP per capita, fertility rates are exceptionally high in sub-Saharan Africa, whose population is projected to double by 2050 and almost quadruple by 2100. I first establish a new empirical fact: the socioeconomic gradient in desired fertility is, on average, steeper (more strongly negative) on the sub-continent. This is true both within rural and urban areas, and whether SES is measured in relative (within-country) or absolute terms (across countries and years). I then explore the links between this gradient differential and the occupational structure. Suggestive evidence from rich micro data points to the relative scarcity of salaried employment opportunities as an important yet previously overlooked contributor to the region's lagging fertility transition. A simple quantity-quality trade-off model embedded in a poverty trap framework outlines possible implications for the intergenerational persistence of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Chat Over Coffee? Technology Diffusion Through Social and Geographic Networks in Rwanda" (with Tavneet Suri, Daniel Keniston and Esther Duflo) [Draft]

We study the diffusion of the impacts of an agronomy training program through the social and geographic networks of coffee farmers in Rwanda. We randomly assign half of the applicants to the training in a sub-district, and construct complete maps of social ties across the population of coffee-growing households in the area. While the program was effective at increasing the treatment group's knowledge and adoption of best agronomic practices, we find no evidence of diffusion through geographic networks or from the treatment group to the control group. Our results point to a reinforcement of treatment effects within the treatment group, concentrated around leaf health improvements. This is driven by farmers who attended the training with people to whom they already had a social connection at baseline. The program also caused a re-sorting of social networks: we find that both treatment and control group households increased social links to individuals trained in their village.

"The Impacts of Free Primary Education on Female Employment in four sub-Saharan African countries" [new draft coming soon]

IPUMS-International Research Award for Best Work by a Graduate Student

This paper evaluates the impacts of primary school fee abolition on female education, employment and fertility in Malawi, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania. Exploiting variation in exposure to the reform across birth cohorts and locations, I find that fee elimination improved educational attainment among 'treated' cohorts: the effects range from a 5% increase in years of schooling in Malawi to a 17% increase in Ghana. The probability of completing primary school also increased in Tanzania, Ghana and Uganda, but not Malawi, where I find a small but negative effect. The FPE reform is also associated with an increase in labor market participation - largely concentrated in self-employment outside of agriculture - and a reduction in fertility. The employment effects are largest in Ghana, where they are driven by entry into retail, manufacturing and food/accommodation services. Correlational evidence suggests that heterogeneity in policy impact may be partly attributable to differences in schooling productivity before the reform and in how the governments accommodated the enrolment increase.

"Youth, Jobs and the Development of Africa" (with Oriana Bandiera and Ahmed Elsayed), prepared for the Journal of Economic Perspectives [draft + abstract coming soon]

Book Chapters

"Technology and Development" (with Menna Bishop and Robin Burgess) [Draft]

While the relationship between technology and productivity is at the core of many economic models, the field of research on the role of technology in development remains small. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the channels through which technology stands to impact development, focusing on six areas: firms, trade and infrastructure; labour markets and structural change; energy and environment; state capacity and public sector delivery; health and education; financial technologies. We uncover why developing countries often lag far behind more developed ones in their adoption of certain improved practices, despite their widely purported benefits, and consider the extent to which lessons learned from developed countries can be carried over to those at earlier stages in the structural change process. This includes a discussion of the importance of behavioural factors, information constraints and lack of complementary infrastructure investments in inhibiting the diffusion of technologies among firms and households. Important attention will also be paid to how technology can be harnessed to guarantee sustainability, enabling countries to leapfrog past old dirty forms of production, transportation and energy generation. Throughout, the chapter makes it clear that there is significant room for both economists and the engineering community to make a vital contribution to the future of development policy.