Work in Progress

How Positive Was the Positive Check? Investment and Fertility in the Aftermath of the 1918 Influenza in India
with Dave Donaldson
Draft available upon request
The 1918 influenza epidemic struck India when the subcontinent was mired in its long-term Malthusian equilibrium of low population growth and stable per-capita consumption. Its terrible death toll left survivors with additional agricultural land, which we show they rapidly put to agricultural use with no decrease in yields. We explore the extent to which this increased per-capita wealth gave rise, over the ensuing decades, to heightened investments in both child quantity as well as child quality. These responses are important because they lie at the heart of standard Malthusian (or “unified growth”) models, which hold that increases in wealth at or near the Malthusian equilibrium should be allocated entirely towards additional fertility.

Technology Adoption and Group Learning about Coffee Farming in Rwanda
with Esther Duflo and Tavneet Suri
Rwanda has ideal growing conditions for coffee and it is the main export crop, but the country’s agronomic practices and processing are in dire need of improvement. In this context, we aim to understand two main aspects of the diffusion of agricultural technologies in the coffee sector in Rwanda. In partnership with TechnoServe (TNS), a non-profit organization, we evaluate the impact and diffusion of the agronomy training part of TNS’s operations. Among a set of applicants, TNS will randomly select the farmers who benefit from the agronomy training. A first objective of the research is to determine the direct impact of this training on the practice of the targeted farmers.  A second objective is to better understand the diffusion of improved agricultural practices (and technologies) through social networks. Through extensive fieldwork and interviews, we survey a very large part (or the entirety) of the social network of the farmers, in order to construct complete network maps. To our knowledge, this will produce one of the first complete social network maps in conjunction with a randomized “injection point” for a new technology, and the first in a developing country. 

“Structural Tests for Oligopoly in Commodities Storage in Local India Agricultural Markets”
Development practitioners and economic theorists have both been concerned with the problem of market power in commodity storage.  However, until now there has been no means to test for imperfect competition of this type that does not require data on commodity sales and stocks–data which are usually unavailable.  This paper develops a dynamic structural technique that both extends and improves earlier estimators 

in order to estimate the degree of oligopoly in a market using only price series, and applies this to data on rice prices from rural markets in India, a context where there is much suggestive evidence and policy concern about market power in commodities storage.  This draft presents preliminary results from one market, and outlines directions for future research.
Preliminary – contact author for latest version


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