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Completed Faculty Research Projects

Current CID Research | Research Archive

 

 

"Consumption, Nutrition, and Health Among the Ultra-Poor"
Nolan Miller, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government
Robert T. Jensen, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government

The ultra-poor spend a far greater proportion of their income on necessities than those that are (even slightly) wealthier. Because of this, policies based on an understanding of moderately wealthy people may be less effective at addressing the problems of the ultra-poor. Previous studies of consumption behavior have not accurately estimated the effects of changes in economic variables on the health and welfare of the ultra-poor because the questions they ask do not focus on the specific issues faced by the ultra-poor, there are not enough ultra-poor consumers in their samples, and the data they collect on prices are not sufficient to understand the source of price variation.

In this project, we are conducting a multi-round household income, expenditure, and consumption survey of ultra-poor consumers in China. Combined with community-level data on prices and agricultural conditions, these data will permit the first reliable estimates of the consumption behavior of ultra-poor consumers. Such estimates will provide guidance to policy-makers who wish to target policies at the ultra-poor.

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"Corporate Accountability, Responsibility and Regulation in Emerging Markets"
Sanjeev Khagram, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government

Over the past several years, South African companies have been pressed to meet the growing demands of government agencies, financial institutions, investors, labor unions and community organizations to demonstrate responsible behavior (social accountability) and to truly embrace the triple bottom lines of economic, social and environmental sustainability. It is this concern that prompted a recent joint venture between the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and The Sustainability Research Institute to launch a sustainability survey and index rating South African companies in four areas. These areas include: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, social sustainability and corporate governance. Companies are rated on there performance in each of these critical capacities. The expectation is that companies listed on the JSE will take seriously CR and that this concerns will be reflected in policy practice. There ratings are determined by their response to this several hundred-question survey and supplementary evidence provided. The first wave of the survey was completed last fall and the second wave is being collected now.

In a set of multivariate analyses we plan to use this data to determine a set of generalizable causes underlying companies decisions to pursue (or not to pursue) policies of corporate social responsibility. We expect to be test a set of extant hypotheses in the literature about the relationship between company size and CR policy, profit and CR policy and sector and CR, among others. We also expect to be able to explain the relationship between the development of policies in one area and the development in another. That is, why might certain firms first pursue policies of environmental sustainability and then address corporate governance? Or why might certain companies tend to focus more singularly upon, say social sustainability? With unusual access to this novel, newly available data we might begin to finally redress some of the glaring gaps in our understanding of the dynamics of corporate responsibility, particularly in emerging markets.

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"Economics and Politics of Pricing in Global and West African Cotton Markets"
Michael Ignatieff, Professor of the Practice of Human Rights, Kennedy School of Government
Michael Walton, Lecturer in International Development, Kennedy School of Government

In an international context, cotton pricing is an example of the longstanding tension between developed and developing countries over agricultural pricing that lies at the center of the Doha round.  Developed countries want to preserve agricultural land and provide a “safety net” to farmers; developing countries have long complained their farmers cannot compete with the treasuries of rich countries, and suffer loss of market share in goods in which they believe they have a comparative advantage. Amongst critics of current policies, cotton subsidies by developed countries have been characterized as one of the most compelling examples of morally unjustified policies, with poor West African farmers suffering in particular.

One of the gaps in the debate has been the substantial distance between changes in international cotton prices and effects for the cotton farmers themselves. This case draws on existing research to document the variety of influences on farmgate cotton prices in a set of West African countries, including both international and domestic (West African) factors. These include: market influences flowing from the effects of international markets and developed country policies and their transmission to farmgate prices; institutional factors, including marketing and ginning arrangements; and political influences on policies. Consideration of all these factors will provide the basis for analysis of the economics of alternative policy positions, and how this relates to moral arguments for policy change.

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"The Effects on Rural Livelihoods of Increasing Rates of HIV/AIDS-related Illness and Death in Zomba, Malawi: A Longitudinal Study"
Pauline Peters, Lecturer in Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government

This research documents the role HIV/AIDS-related illness and death may be playing in these dynamics of livelihood and income inequality. A significant contribution will be to provide a rare longitudinal lens looking at HIV effects on rural lives. In addition to being able to discuss the significant changes in livelihoods, cropping patterns, land access and family organization, the study seeks to use the deep socio-cultural knowledge to identify how HIV/AIDS is being incorporated into systems of meaning and action.

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"Exposure to Multiple Childhood Disease Risk Factors: Multi-country Analysis Using the Demographic and Health Surveys"
Majid Ezzati, Assistant Professor of International Health, Harvard School of Public Health
Emmanuela Gakidou, Research Assistant, Center for Basic Research in the Social Sciences, Harvard College

Approximately ten million children under five years of age die each year globally, with large variations across regions and countries. Most childhood deaths are from a small number of diseases (e.g., malaria, diarrhoea, and acute respiratory infections) and caused by individual or combined hazards of risk factors such as undernutrition, poor water and sanitation, and indoor smoke from solid fuels. Because of multi-causality, a range of preventive and treatment interventions and their combinations can be used to reduce childhood disease and mortality.

Exposure to most childhood mortality risk factors is highest among the poor. Therefore, universal coverage of preventive interventions would provide larger benefits to those at highest-risk, and therefore reduce health inequalities in addition to aggregate population benefits. Conversely, if risk factor interventions do not reach those at highest risk, health inequalities will increase.

In this work, the investigators will estimate the distribution of child mortality as well as exposure to childhood undernutrition, poor water and sanitation, and indoor smoke from solid fuels by economic status in different countries using the nationally-representative Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). All three risks are leading determinants of child mortality, and are included in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Specifically, the project will analyze all available DHSs to quantify co-exposure to these three risks nationally, by rural and urban place of residence, and in relation to an asset-based measure of household wealth. In addition to its direct findings, the proposed analysis will also be a first step in further research, which will combine multiple risk factor exposure with systematic reviews of epidemiological literature on the (proportional) hazards for each risk factor to estimate the proportions of disease-specific child mortality caused by preventable risk factor exposure, on average and in population subgroups. To allow considering the benefits of a range of interventions, the investigators will quantify each risk factor in multiple exposure categories (i.e., prevalence of malnutrition in 1 SD increments, multiple categories of water and sanitation technology defined based on the risk of fecaloral transmission, and multiple categories of fuels defined based on their pollutant emissions).

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"Going Local: Decentralization, Democratization, and the Promise of Good Governance"
Merilee Grindle, Edward S. Mason Professor of International Development, Kennedy School of Government

Throughout the developing world, two decades of political, administrative, and fiscal decentralization have left behind a daunting legacy for local governments in a large number of countries. Long bereft of authority and resources by highly centralized governments, localities across the globe are now grappling with how to take on new responsibilities for economic development, public service provision, fiscal management, and democratic accountability. There is limited knowledge, however, about how, why, and when governments adapt and innovate in the performance of new responsibilities. What factors encourage mayors, councilors, and local administrators to invest in economic development, improved service provision, and/or more responsive government? What are the factors that inhibit performance improvements? 

The principal objective of this comparative research project is to respond to these questions by investigating how, why, and when better local governance emerges in the wake of decentralization. Through field research in thirty randomly selected municipalities in Mexico, Going Local assesses four hypotheses about the dynamics behind local government response to new responsibilities and resources: partisan political pressures; the impact of capacity building and state modernization; leadership and public “entrepreneurship;” and social capital endowments. The research involves in-dept interviews with local government and party officials, documentary evidence, and the analysis of longitudinal data on electoral and fiscal affairs in Mexico. 

This research will contribute to academic knowledge-building with relevance to decentralization, local governance, institutional reform, and democratization. In addition, practitioners who are involved in helping stimulate better performance among local governments will find it of use. The project is to result in a book manuscript, articles, seminar and workshop presentations, and contributions to development assistance agencies on reform and innovation in local governance. The project has been funded by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and the Center for International Development.

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"Growth Diagnostics"
Ricardo Hausmann, Professor of the Practice of Economic Development, Kennedy School of Government
Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy, Kennedy School of Government
Andrés Velasco, Sumitomo Professor of International Finance and Development, Kennedy School of Government

The Washington Consensus was guided by the belief that there is a short list of specific policy reforms that all well-trained economists agree are growth-promoting. This belief has been shattered by the experience of the last 15 years. Most economists now recognize that few, if any, of these policies can be systematically relied upon to deliver economic growth and that intermediate economic targets – such as integration into the global economy, macroeconomic stability, and property rights – do not map directly and uniquely into specific policy recommendations. This research project is motivated by the belief that it is possible to develop a unified framework for analyzing and formulating "growth strategies" which is both operational and based on solid economic reasoning.

This project's approach focuses on developing a framework for "growth diagnostics" – that is, a strategy for figuring out the policy priorities for unleashing economic growth (or sustaining it, as the case may be). The strategy is aimed at identifying the most binding constraints on economic activity, and hence the set of policies that, once targeted on these constraints at any point in time, is likely to provide the biggest bang for the reform buck. The methodology can be conceptualized as a decision tree. The project starts by asking what keeps the level of domestic investment and entrepreneurship low. Is it inadequate returns to investment, inadequate private appropriability of the returns, or inadequate finance? If it is a case of low returns, is that due to insufficient levels of complementary factors of production (such as human capital or infrastructure)? Or is it due to poor access to appropriate technologies? If it is a case of poor appropriability, is it due to high taxation, poor property rights and contract enforcement, labor-capital conflicts, or learning externalities? If it is a case of poor finance, are the problems with domestic financial markets or external ones? And so on. At each node of the decision tree, the investigators analyze the kind of evidence that would help answer the question one way or another. The research also illustrates the practical implications of this approach by drawing on illustrations from specific countries.

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"The Impact of the Hajj"
Asim Khwaja, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government
Michael Kremer, Gates Professor of Developing Societies, Department of Economics

This research takes advantage of a social experiment created by a lottery in Pakistan used to allocate opportunities to travel on the Hajj pilgrimage. These groups are compared along a wide variety of economic, political, religious, ethical, and social dimensions we believe might be affected by the Hajj. The results will offer insight into how religion helps or hinders economic development.

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"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Industry"
James Robinson, Professor of Government, Department of Government

In this project, joint with Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson (MIT) we intend to examine the legacy of the French revolution on 19th century European industrialization. After the revolution in 1789, French armies (both before and after Napoleon) invaded European countries abolishing feudalism and introducing modern legal institutions. We intend to examine this as an exogenous institutional shock and look for its implications for 19th century industrialization and development. Who the French invaded is basically an exogenous treatment, since it was determined by geographical proximity to France, and we also have a control group (places not invaded). Most of the interesting variation comes from West and East Germany and North and South Italy. We will measure outcomes with an extensive database of European city populations for the 18th and 19th centuries that we have already put together. Our working hypothesis is that being invaded by the French led to more rapid growth and industrialization in the 19th century. This finding, if correct, has several important implications. First, it is yet another very clean piece of evidence in favor of the hypothesis that it is institutional differences that drive economic divergence and convergence. Second, it will show that the current conventional wisdom that one cannot transplant institutions from one country to another, may be flawed. Finally, it will show that French institutions, even the Code Napoleon, may not be so bad for development as has been conjectured.

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"New Exports, Productivity, and Growth"
Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy, Kennedy School of Government

Productivity growth in developing countries may be hampered by the lack of adequate incentives to invest in non-traditional tradables when such investment conveys valuable cost information to others in the economy. This research aims to uncover evidence in support of this hypothesis by analyzing systematically the nature of new exports generated in response to profitability shocks (such as those that are due to significant real depreciations). Traditional models predict that a boost in the profitability of tradables would spur new exports from industries that are of lower productivity than pre-existing exports, as countries move down their chain of comparative advantage. The model being tested would instead predict that the new exports may well be of higher productivity, since the new investments spurred by the boost in profitability will uncover goods in which the country has an even stronger comparative advantage than in pre-existing exports. By looking at detailed export perfomance pre- and post- real devaluations, the research will check whether there is any evidence for this non-standard channel.

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"Palestine Development Initiative"
Robert Lawrence, Albert L. Williams Professor of International Trade and Investment, Kennedy School of Government

This initiative studies the overall economic development strategy and trade policy needs of Palestine. Drawing upon faculty expertise from across the university, the project works with Palestinian officials, academics, and business people to address a broad portfolio of issues, such as Qualified Industrial Zones, business loans to small firms, water management strategies, and competitiveness plans for other small countries. Specifically, the project will examine the impact of a potential Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. on the Palestinian economy and society, not only as a vehicle for promoting trade and investment with the U.S. but also as a mechanism for promoting economic reforms in Arab countries. Such economic reform will facilitate the creation of the institutions and practices for sustainable economic activity and, ultimately, a more stable society.

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"Peace Through Victory: The Durable Settlement of Civil Wars"
Monica Toft, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government

Civil wars are wars of the worst sort. Since 1945, the cumulative toll of death and destruction in civil wars has exceeded the destructiveness of World War II. Beyond their destructiveness within the states in which they are fought, civil wars often expand--either spilling over into neighboring states or encouraging other states to intervene. States fighting civil wars often become havens for terrorists and other organized criminals, and can cause large population dislocations that impact neighboring states. Finally, civil wars ended by negotiated settlements often flare up again, leading to even more brutal outcomes.

Most research and policies on civil wars focus on the problem of how to stop civil wars by means of a negotiated settlement, or on how third parties could facilitate this goal. The policy had an appeal: if the two (or more) warring parties could be brought to the table, lives could be saved. Unfortunately, this approach suffers from at least two limitations. First, because only about a quarter of all civil wars actually end via a negotiated settlement, three quarters of recent conflicts remain unexplored and unexplained. Second, empirically, negotiated settlements often lead to renewed outbreaks of violence; outbreaks that often escalate the quantity or quality of violence. Paradoxically, stability and prosperity tend to follow civil wars ended by a decisive victory for one side. Yet little scholarly attention has been paid to either the conditions that make decisive victories possible or the conditions that ensure that the losing side does not suffer after it surrenders.

The primary aim of this research is to develop and support policies that not only effectively resolve civil wars with a minimum loss of blood and treasure, but also resolve them in such a way that they stay resolved, and stay resolved in a way that allows for postwar economic growth and political development.

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"Relating Political Conflict to the Performance of Africa's Economies, While Correcting for the Impact of Endogeneity"
Robert H. Bates, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, Department of Government

Both common sense and theoretically-informed argument suggest that politics affects the performance of economies. This argument has been most forcefully advanced, perhaps, by observers of Africa, where "poor governance" is held responsible for slow growth. As obvious and persuasive as such arguments might be, in practice it has proven difficult to isolate and to measure the impact of of authoritarianism or political conflict on the development of Africa's economies.

In recent years, methodological advances have been made that enable researchers to address the problems that confound conventional methods of inference. The goal of this research is to bring these methods to bear on data drawn from 46 African states over the last decades of the 20th century, and thus to explore the impact of politics on economic development.

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"Repayment Schedules and Default Rates of Micro-credit Clients"
Erica Field, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics
Rohini Pande, Assistant Professor of Economics, Yale University

This project will examine the influence of repayment schedules on the default and delinquency rates of micro-finance (MFI) clients in India. A common feature of MFI credit contracts is high frequency of repayment installments, in which borrowers commonly face weekly or even daily collections that begin soon after loan disbursement. Yet there is little understanding of the effectiveness of such policies in reducing default, particularly relative to the added cost of collection and potential investment distortions. For a number of reasons, daily repayment schemes may be suboptimal for both lenders and borrowers. We will investigate the influence of payment frequency on borrowing and investment behavior with a randomized evaluation of alternative installment plans among entrepreneurial loan applicants to a large MFI in Gujarat. By comparing repayment schemes with mandatory versus optional collection services we will attempt to disentangle two potential channels through which frequent repayment reduces default: by providing savings instruments to borrowers and by reducing intra-personal delinquency risk that arises when borrowers have self-control problems.

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"Self Discovery and the Level and Volatility of the Real Exchange Rate"
Ricardo Hausmann, Professor of the Practice of Economic Development, Kennedy School of Government

The goal of this project is to better understand export dynamics at a highly disaggregated product level. Specifically, we are investigating the relative importance for export growth of discovering 'new' goods as compared to selling more of the 'traditional' goods. This distinction is very important, as policies to promote the emergence of new industries could be quite different from policies to stimulate country-wide productivity growth in established industries.

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"Sustainable Upland Forest Systems: The Role of Institutions in Improving Ecological Resilience and Smallholder Livelihoods"
William C. Clark, Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development, Kennedy School of Government

The upland and mountain forests of the tropics are the setting for some of today's most intense interactions between efforts to reduce poverty and efforts to conserve biodiversity. When these interactions go wrong, people go hungry and other species go extinct. When they go right, however, experience shows that both people and nature can benefit. Policies are needed that bias development in directions that yield more sustainable systems of land use in upland forests, improving the well-being of local and "downstream" people, without degrading these unique and fragile environments to a point that they no longer support people or biodiversity.

This research project will focus on the following questions.  How does the type and security of land rights affect smallholder welfare and ecological health in upland forest systems? What types of institutions for knowledge gathering, development, and communication are most effective for providing information that supports decisions bearing on the joint goals of human development and environmental stewardship?

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Current CID Research | Research Archive



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