Ted's main research focus is African economic development, including work on the economic causes and consequences of violence; the impact of ethnic divisions on local collective action; interactions between health, education, environment, and productivity for the poor; and methods for transparent social science research. He has conducted field work in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and India. Many of the datasets used in his research are posted online, either on the relevant article page (on this website) or on Dataverse.
This study estimates long-run impacts of a child health investment, exploiting community-wide experimental variation in school-based deworming. The program increased labor supply among men and education among women, with accompanying shifts in labor market specialization. Ten years after deworming treatment, men who were eligible as boys stay enrolled for more years of primary school, work 17% more hours each week, spend more time in non-agricultural self-employment, are more likely to hold manufacturing jobs, and miss one fewer meal per week. Women who were in treatment schools as girls are approximately one quarter more likely to have attended secondary school, halving the gender gap. They reallocate time from traditional agriculture into cash crops and non-agricultural self-employment. We estimate a conservative annualized financial internal rate of return to deworming of 32%, and show that mass deworming may generate more in future government revenue than it costs in subsidies.
Baird, Sarah, Joan Hamory Hicks, Michael Kremer and Edward Miguel. (2016). "Worms at work: Long-run impacts of a child health investment", Quarterly Journal of Economics, 131(4): 1637-1680, doi: 10.1093/qje/qjw022.
Large and regular seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets appear to offer African farmers substantial inter-temporal arbitrage opportunities, but these opportunities remain largely unexploited: small-scale farmers are commonly observed to "sell low and buy high" rather than the reverse. In a field experiment in Kenya, we show that credit market imperfections limit farmers' abilities to move grain inter-temporally. Providing timely access to credit allows farmers to buy at lower prices and sell at higher prices, increasing farm revenues and generating a return on investment of 29%. To understand general equilibrium effects of these changes in behavior, we vary the density of loan offers across locations. We document significant effects of the credit intervention on seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets, and show that these GE effects shape individual level protability estimates. In contrast to existing experimental work, the results indicate a setting in which microcredit can improve farm profitability, and suggest that GE effects can substantially shape microcredit's effectiveness. In particular, failure to consider these GE effects could lead to underestimates of the social welfare benefits of microcredit interventions.
Burke, Marshall, Lauren Falcao Bergquist, and Edward Miguel. (2019). "Sell Low and Buy High: Arbitrage and Local Price Effects in Kenyan Markets", forthcoming Quarterly Journal of Economics.
We assess evidence from randomized control trials (RCTs) on long-run economic productivity and living standards in poor countries. We first document that several studies estimate large positive long-run impacts, but that relatively few existing RCTs have been evaluated over the long-run. We next present evidence from a systematic survey of existing RCTs, with a focus on cash transfer and child health programs, and show that a meaningful subset can realistically be evaluated for long-run effects. We discuss ways to bridge the gap between the burgeoning number of development RCTs and the limited number that have been followed up to date, including through new panel (longitudinal) data, improved participant tracking methods, alternative research designs, and access to administrative, remote sensing, and cell phone data. We conclude that the rise of development economics RCTs since roughly 2000 provides a novel opportunity to generate high-quality evidence on the long-run drivers of living standards.
Bouguen, Adrien, Yue Huang, Michael Kremer, and Edward Miguel. (2019). “Using RCT’s to Estimate Long-Run Impacts in Development Economics”, forthcoming Annual Review of Economics.
We present results from an experiment that randomized the expansion of electric grid infrastructure in rural Kenya. Electricity distribution is a canonical example of a natural monopoly. Randomized price offers show that demand for electricity connections falls sharply with price. Experimental variation in the number of connections, combined with administrative cost data, reveals considerable scale economies, as hypothesized. However, consumer surplus is far less than total construction costs at all price levels. Moreover, we do not find meaningful medium-run impacts on economic, health, and educational outcomes, nor evidence of spillovers to unconnected local households. These results suggest that current efforts to increase residential electrification in rural Kenya may reduce social welfare. We discuss how leakage of funds, reduced demand (due to red tape, low reliability, and credit constraints), and other factors may impact this conclusion.
Lee, Kenneth, Edward Miguel, and Catherine Wolfram. (2018). "Experimental Evidence on the Economics of Rural Electrification", working paper.
There is growing interest in enhancing research transparency and reproducibility in economics and other scientific fields. We survey existing work on these topics within economics, and discuss the evidence suggesting that publication bias, inability to replicate, and specification searching remain widespread in the discipline. We next discuss recent progress in this area, including through improved research design, study registration and pre-analysis plans, disclosure standards, and open sharing of data and materials, drawing on experiences in both economics and other social sciences. We discuss areas where consensus is emerging on new practices, as well as approaches that remain controversial, and speculate about the most effective ways to make economics research more credible in the future.
Christensen, Garret S., and Edward Miguel. 2018. "Transparency, Reproducibility, and the Credibility of Economics Research", Journal of Economic Literature, 56(3): 920-980.
Jullien, Sinclair and Garner (2016) (henceforth JSG) state that they seek to ‘appraise the methods’ of three recent papers that estimate long-run impacts of mass deworming on educational or economic outcomes. This commentary focuses on their discussion of Baird, Hicks, Kremer and Miguel (2016) (henceforth Baird).We welcome scrutiny of our work, and appreciate the opportunity to discuss JSG. Baird finds evidence of gains in some educational and labour outcomes 10 years after a deworming programme in 75 Kenyan primary schools. Some gains are found in the full sample, and others among either males or females, in ways that are sensible given the context, e.g. there are gains in manufacturing employment among males but not females, fewer of whom work in this sector in Kenya. Below we discuss JSG’s claim that the evidence in Baird is unreliable. It is not surprising that any two scholars might interpret a body of results differently, but JSG make a series of claims that appear overstated or are somewhat misleading.
Baird, Sarah, Joan Hamory Hicks, Michael Kremer, and Edward Miguel. (2017). "Commentary: Assessing long-run deworming impacts on education and economic outcomes: a comment on Jullien, Sinclair and Garner (2016)", International Journal of Epidemiology, doi: 10.1093/ije/dyw350.
Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) and schistosomiasis infections affect more than 1 billion people, mainly in low- and middle-income countries, particularly school-age children. This chapter discusses the economics of policy choices surrounding public investments in deworming.
“Economics of Mass Deworming Programs” (co-authors Amrita Ahuja, Sarah Baird, Joan Hamory Hicks, Michael Kremer), Chapter 29 in Disease Control Priorities (third edition): Volume 8, Child and Adolescent Health and Development, (eds.) D. A. P. Bundy, N. de Silva, S. Horton, D. T. Jamison, and G. C. Patton. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2017.
Improved health in low-income countries could considerably improve wellbeing and possibly promote economic growth. The last decade has seen a surge in field experiments designed to understand the barriers that households and governments face in investing in health and how these barriers can be overcome, and to assess the impacts of subsequent health gains. This chapter first discusses the methodological pitfalls that field experiments in the health sector are particularly susceptible to, then reviews the evidence that rigorous field experiments have generated so far. While the link from in utero and child health to later outcomes has increasingly been established, few experiments have estimated the impacts of health on contemporaneous productivity among adults, and few experiments have explored the potential for infrastructural programs to impact health outcomes. Many more studies have examined the determinants of individual health behavior, on the side of consumers as well as among providers of health products and services.
Dupas, Pascaline, and Edward Miguel. "Impacts and Determinants of Health Levels in Low-Income Countries", 2017, Handbook of Field Experiments, (eds.) Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee.
Recent research has pointed to large gaps in labor productivity between the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors in low-income countries, as well as between workers in rural and urban areas. Most estimates are based on national accounts or repeated cross-sections of micro-survey data, and as a result typically struggle to account for individual selection between sectors. This paper uses long-run individual-level panel data from two low-income countries (Indonesia and Kenya). Accounting for individual fixed effects leads to much smaller estimated productivity gains from moving into the non-agricultural sector (or urban areas), reducing estimated gaps by over 80%. Per capita consumption gaps are also small once individual fixed effects are included. Estimated productivity gaps do not emerge up to five years after a move between sectors. We evaluate whether these findings imply a re-assessment of the conventional wisdom regarding sectoral gaps, discuss how to reconcile them with existing cross-sectional estimates, and consider implications for the desirability of sectoral reallocation of labor.
Hicks, Joan Hamory, Marieke Kleemans, Nicholas Y. Li, and Edward Miguel. (2017). "Reevaluating Agricultural Productivity Gaps with Longitudinal Microdata", NBER Working Paper No. 23253.
This paper exploits an unusual transportation setting to generate some of the first revealed preference value of a statistical life (VSL) estimates from a low-income setting. We estimate the trade-offs individuals are willing to make between mortality risk and cost as they travel to and from the international airport in Sierra Leone. The setting and original dataset allow us to address some typical omitted variable concerns, and also to compare VSL estimates for travelers from different countries, all facing the same choice situation. The average VSL estimate for African travelers in the sample is US$577,000 compared to US$924,000 for non-Africans.
León, Gianmarco, and Edward Miguel. 2017. "Risky Transportation Choices and the Value of a Statistical Life", American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 9(1): 202-228, doi: 10.1257/app.20160140.
Self-control problems constitute a potential explanation for the under-investment in preventive health care observed in low-income countries. A commonly proposed policy tool to solve such problems is offering consumers commitment devices. We conduct a field experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of different types of theoretically-motivated commitment contracts in increasing preventive doctor visits by hypertensive patients in rural India. We document varying levels of takeup of the different commitment contracts, but nd no effects on actual doctor visits or individual health outcomes. Thus, a substantial number of individuals pay for commitments, but then fail to follow through on the specified task, losing money without experiencing any health benefit. We develop and structurally estimate a pre-specified model of consumer behavior under present bias with varying levels of naivete. The results are consistent with a large share of individuals being partially naive about their own self-control problems; in other words, they are sophisticated enough to demand some commitment, but overly optimistic about whether a given commitment is sufficiently strong to be effective. The results suggest that commitment devices may in practice be welfare diminishing, at least in some contexts, and serve as a cautionary tale about the role of these contracts in the...
Bai, Liang, Benjamin Handel, Edward Miguel, and Gautam Rao. (2017). "Self-Control and Demand for Preventive Health: Evidence from Hypertension in India", NBER Working Paper #23727.