I am an applied microeconomist working on topics related to risk and investment. By focusing on both classical and behavioral components of decision-making, my research helps make sense of observed behavior and guide the design of policies seeking to foster resilience in the face of economic and environmental uncertainty. I believe that these questions are as relevant for my home community in Pennsylvania as for the communities in Mozambique where I currently study the effects of drought on smallholding farmers.
My extensive fieldwork in Mozambique, Guatemala, and Nicaragua has also left me with an abiding interest in the formation of agricultural value chains and the role of information in determining prices and distributing gains from production.
· Risk, Insurance, and Investment
· Behavioral Influences of Economic Behavior
· Agricultural Value Chains
Working Papers and Ongoing Research
Economists and policy makers alike often find themselves struggling to explain low levels of adoption for seemingly profitable agricultural technologies. This easily extends to technologies that stabilize yields in the face of weather and pest pressure. In this paper, I take a behavioral approach to explaining adoption and investment rooted in the psychological notion of locus of control, which captures the extent to which a decision-maker believes that her actions affect outcomes relative to forces outside of her control. I consider how locus of control affects neoclassical models of decision-making and test various pathways using primary data from smallholding farmers in Eastern Africa. In addition to a standard locus of control instrument from psychology, I develop a measure of locus of control specific to maize production. I show that farmers with more external locus of control are significantly less likely to adopt improved maize varieties. Using data on subjective weather expectations and risk attitudes, I present suggestive evidence that locus of control is not reflecting differences in preferences or subjective probabilities, but rather affecting beliefs about the production function itself.
As evidence mounts for heterogeneous treatment effects in entrepreneurial interventions, program implementers look for ways to tilt the balance in favor of cost effectiveness. One such strategy is targeting on observable characteristics believed to be associated with positive program benefits. In this paper we show that such a strategy carries significant risks and may exclude households who stand to gain significant benefit from the intervention. The risks of sharp targeting are especially salient for multifaceted entrepreneurial programs, which benefit participants through multiple channels.