Current Working Papers

with Andrew D. Foster, revise and resubmit, Journal of Political Economy. Non-technical summary. NBER WP

We study the relationship between risk and schooling investment in a low-income setting. We show theoretically that parents respond to variance by reducing investment ex ante if the human capital production function exhibits dynamic complementarity and parental preferences for human capital are not too concave. We estimate the key parameters of the structural model, which suggest that the elimination of variance would result in a 15-18% increase in investments attributable to an ex ante response. We then use cross-village variation in risk over time and estimate an ex ante elasticity of study time with respect to variance of -0.05. Finally, we simulate the effects of an implicit social insurance program, modeled after the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). Our results suggest that the risk-reducing effect of the NREGS may offset adverse effects on child education that were evident during the NREGS phase-in due to rising wages. 

with Friederike Lenel and Claudia Schupp, submitted

Students in low-income contexts often lack guidance in their career decisions which can lead to a misallocation of educational investments. We report on a randomized field experiment conducted with 1715 students in rural Cambodia and show that a half-day workshop designed to support adolescents in developing occupational aspirations increased educational investments. We document substantial heterogeneity in treatment effects by baseline student performance. While the workshop increased schooling efforts of high-performing students, treated low-performing students reduced their educational investments. We develop a simple model that explains why an information intervention can affect educational aspirations and investments in opposing directions.

with Robert Genthner and Krisztina Kis-Katos, submitted

We analyze the effect of rising protectionism towards foreign direct investment (FDI) on domestic employment, exploiting revisions in Indonesia’s highly-granular negative investment list, and spatial variation in the exposure of the manufacturing sector to these investment restrictions. Rising FDI restrictions caused employment gains at the local level, explaining about one-tenth of the aggregate employment increases observed between 2006 and 2016 in Indonesia. These employment gains went along with a reorganization of the local production structure, and new firm entries in the manufacturing sector that are concentrated among micro and small enterprises. While our results are consistent with an increase in the labor-to-capital ratio and reduced productivity among regulated firms (which allowed smaller and less productive firms to enter the market), we also document that at least half of the employment gains are driven by spillover-effects along the local value chain and into the service sector. 


"COVID-19 crisis, economic hardships and schooling outcomes" (with Friederike Lenel and Claudia Schupp), Education Finance and Policy. 2022. Ungated version. Data. 

"Agricultural modernization and fertility: Evidence from the oil palm boom in Indonesia" (with Christoph Kubitza), Journal of Human Resources. 2021. Ungated version. Data.

"Links between maternal employment and child nutrition in rural Tanzania" (with Bethelem Legesse Debela and Matin Qaim), American Journal of Agricultural Economics 103: 812-830. 2021.   (Open Access)

"Productive Effects of Public Works Programs: What do we know? What should we know?" (with Renate Hartwig), World Development 107: 111-124. 2018. Ungated version.

“An Employment Guarantee as risk insurance? Assessing the effects of the NREGA on agricultural production decisions”, World Bank Economic Review 33 (2):  413–435. 2019doi: 10.1093/wber/lhw067. Ungated version. Data

​“Do cows have negative returns?” (with Michael Grimm), Economic Development and Cultural Change 66 (4): 676-707. Ungated version.

​​“The insurability framework applied to agricultural microinsurance: What do we know, what can we learn?”, Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance, 39, pp. 264–279, 2014.

Ongoing Projects

Migration shocks and educational investments (with Claire Duquennois, draft coming soon)

Information, beliefs and investments in education (with Sofia Badini, Friederike Lenel and Claudia Schupp, draft coming soon)

Labor-saving technical change and structural transformation (with Krisztina Kis-Katos, data collection in progress)

Parental resource allocation, educational inequalities, between siblings, and their welfare effects in adulthood (funded)