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.
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", Quarterly Journal of Economics, 134(2): 785-842, doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjy034.
Self-control problems constitute a potential explanation for the under-investment in preventive health in low-income countries. Behavioral economics offers a tool to solve such problems: 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. Despite achieving high take-up of such contracts in some treatment arms, we find no effects on actual doctor visits or individual health outcomes. A substantial number of individuals pay for commitment but fail to follow through on the doctor visit, losing money without experiencing health benefits. 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: sophisticated enough to demand some commitment, but overly optimistic about whether a given level of commitment is suffciently 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 their role in health care.
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.
In April 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) department and Nutrition for Health and Development (NHD) department convened a Guidelines Development Group meeting to review the WHO’s recommendations for the control of soil-transmitted helminths in high-risk groups. Subsequent to this meeting, the WHO will announce whether it will reaffirm its long-standing recommendation of mass drug administration (MDA) in areas with more than 20% prevalence of soil-transmitted helminths (hookworm, whipworm, and roundworm). We recently released a new meta-analysis working paper focusing on the effect of MDA on weight gain for children, which was presented at this WHO convening. In light of the mounting evidence on both the short-run impacts on child weight and long-run educational and economic effects of deworming, we believe that the expected benefits of deworming are likely to greatly exceed the cost, and that the long-standing support of WHO and other international donors and organizations for mass deworming remains scientifically justified.
Croke, Kevin, Joan Hamory Hicks, Eric Hsu, Michael Kremer, and Edward Miguel. (2017). "Should the WHO withdraw support for mass deworming?", PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0005481.
Many public health interventions provide benefits that extend beyond their direct recipients and impact people in close physical or social proximity who did not directly receive the intervention themselves. A classic example of this phenomenon is the herd protection provided by many vaccines. If these 'spillover effects' (i.e., 'herd effects') are present in the same direction as the effects on the intended recipients, studies that only estimate direct effects on recipients will likely underestimate the full public health benefits of the intervention. Causal inference assumptions for spillover parameters have been articulated in the vaccine literature, but many studies measuring spillovers of other types of public health interventions have not drawn upon that literature. In conjunction with a systematic review we conducted of spillovers of public health interventions delivered in low- and middle-income countries, we classified the most widely used spillover parameters reported in the empirical literature into a standard notation. General classes of spillover parameters include: cluster-level spillovers; spillovers conditional on treatment or outcome density, distance or the number of treated social network links; and vaccine efficacy parameters related to spillovers. We draw on high quality empirical examples to illustrate each of these parameters. We describe study designs to estimate...
Jade Benjamin-Chung, Benjamin F. Arnold, David Berger, Stephen P. Luby, Edward Miguel, John M. Colford Jr., Alan E. Hubbard. 2017. "Spillover effects in epidemiology: parameters, study designs and methodological considerations", International Journal of Epidemiology, doi: 10.1093/ije/dyx201.
Background: Many interventions delivered to improve health may benefit not only direct recipients but also people in close physical or social proximity. Our objective was to review all published literature about the spillover effects of interventions on health outcomes in low-middle income countries and to identify methods used in estimating these effects. Methods: We searched 19 electronic databases for articles published before 2014 and hand-searched titles from 2010 to 2013 in five relevant journals. We adapted the Cochrane Collaboration’s quality grading tool for spillover estimation and rated the quality of evidence. Results: A total of 54 studies met inclusion criteria. We found a wide range of terminology used to describe spillovers, a lack of standardization among spillover methods and poor reporting of spillovers in many studies. We identified three primary mechanisms of spillovers: reduced disease transmission, social proximity and substitution of resources within households. We found the strongest evidence for spillovers through reduced disease transmission, particularly vaccines and mass drug administration. In general, the proportion of a population receiving an intervention was associated with improved health. Most studies were of moderate or low quality. We found evidence of publication bias for certain spillover estimates but not for total or direct...
Jade Benjamin-Chung, Jaynal Abedin, David Berger, Ashley Clark, Veronica Jimenez, Eugene Konagaya, Diana Tran, Benjamin F. Arnold, Alan E. Hubbard, Stephen P. Luby, Edward Miguel and John M. Colford Jr. 2017. "Spillover effects on health outcomes in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review", International Journal of Epidemiology, doi: 10.1093/ije/dyx039.
Whether changes in climate substantially shape human conflict is a question of considerable recent interest to both academics and policymakers. Despite a substantial body of evidence for a strong association between climate and conflict, it remains widely claimed that large-sample empirical evidence linking climatic conditions and modern human conflict in Africa is mixed and thus any reported evidence for a strong association should be discounted. Theisen, Holterman, and Buhaug (henceforth THB) is one of the studies used to support this claim. Here we show that the results in THB are not inconsistent with earlier studies that report a substantial eect of of climate on conflict. We demonstrate using power calculations and Monte Carlo simulations that even if a large association between climate and conflict existed in the data, the approach of THB would not be able to reliably distinguish this association from a null eect, indicating that the approach taken by THB is statistically underpowered in this context. Therefore THB's analysis provides no basis for discarding earlier analyses and THB's conclusions drawn from this analysis overstate the extent to which they disagree with the literature. We also demonstrate that THB's stated advantage from using exceptionally high resolution data is unlikely to be realized in their analysis, since high resolution rainfall data...
Hsiang, Solomon M., Marshall Burke, Edward Miguel, Kyle C. Meng, Mark A. Cane. 2015. "Analysis of statistical power reconciles drought-conflict results in Africa", CEGA Working Paper #53, December 2015.
In this paper, we summarize the results of a recent household appliance survey conducted in Western Kenya to provide descriptive evidence on how rural households with and without grid connections, and those with home solar systems, compare in terms of the appliances they own and the appliances they aspire to own. Our data indicate that home solar users own quite different appliances compared to grid-connected households, and suggest that home solar does not satisfy the full range of household energy needs, given current appliance technologies. We also document planned expansions in centralized electricity generating capacity in a number of Sub-Saharan African countries, including Kenya. We find that the environmental advantages of decentralized solar are likely to be relatively small in countries like Kenya, where a large proportion of existing and planned grid electricity is generated without fossil fuels.
Lee, Kenneth, Edward Miguel, and Catherine Wolfram. (2016). "Appliance Ownership and Aspirations among Electric Grid and Home Solar Households in Rural Kenya", American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, 106(5): 89-94, doi: 10.1257/aer.p20161097.
In the past decade, nearly 20 studies have found a strong, persistent pattern in surveys and behavioral experiments from over 40 countries: individual exposure to war violence tends to increase social cooperation at the local level, including community participation and prosocial behavior. Thus while war has many negative legacies for individuals and societies, it appears to leave a positive legacy in terms of local cooperation and civic engagement. We discuss, synthesize and reanalyze the emerging body of evidence, and weigh alternative explanations. There is some indication that war violence especially enhances in-group or "parochial" norms and preferences, a finding that, if true, suggests that the rising social cohesion we document need not promote broader peace.
Bauer, Michal, Christopher Blattman, Julie Chytilova, Joseph Henrich, Edward Miguel, and Tamar Mitts. (2016). "Can War Foster Cooperation?", Journal of Economic Perspectives, 30(3): 249-274, doi: 10.1257/jep.30.3.249.
There is limited empirical evidence on whether cash transfers to poor pregnant women improve children's birth outcomes and potentially help weaken the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Using a unique array of program and social security administrative micro- data matched to longitudinal vital statistics in Uruguay, we estimate that participation in a generous social assistance program led to a sizable reduction in the incidence of low birthweight. The effect is due to faster intrauterine growth rather than longer gestational length. Our findings are consistent with improved maternal nutrition during pregnancy being a key driver of improved birthweight.
Amarante, Verónica, Marco Manacorda, Edward Miguel, and Andrea Vigorito. 2016. "Do Cash Transfers Improve Birth Outcomes? Evidence from Matched Vital Statistics, Program and Social Security Data", American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2016, 8(2): 1-43, doi:10.1257/pol.20140344 [lead article].
The WHO has recently debated whether to reaffirm its long-standing recommendation of mass drug administration (MDA) in areas with more than 20% prevalence of soil-transmitted helminths (hookworm, whipworm, and roundworm). There is consensus that the relevant deworming drugs are safe and effective, so the key question facing policymakers is whether the expected benefits of MDA exceed the roughly $0.30 per treatment cost. The literature on long run educational and economic impacts of deworming suggests that this is the case. However, a recent meta-analysis by Taylor-Robinson et al. (2015) (hereafter TMSDG), disputes these findings. The authors conclude that while treatment of children known to be infected increases weight by 0.75 kg (95% CI: 0.24, 1.26; p=0.0038), there is substantial evidence that MDA has no impact on weight or other child outcomes. We update the TMSDG analysis by including studies omitted from that analysis and extracting additional data from included studies, such as deriving standard errors from p-values when the standard errors are not reported in the original article. The updated sample includes twice as many trials as analyzed by TMSDG, substantially improving statistical power. We find that the TMSDG analysis is underpowered: it would conclude that MDA has no effect even if...
Croke, Kevin, Joan Hamory Hicks, Eric Hsu, Michael Kremer, and Edward Miguel. (2016). "Does Mass Deworming Affect Child Nutrition? Meta-analysis, Cost-effectiveness, and Statistical Power", National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Paper #22382.
This paper studies the political and social impacts of increased education by utilizing a randomized girls’ merit scholarship programme in Kenya that raised test scores and secondary schooling. Consistent with the view that education empowers the disadvantaged to challenge authority, we find that the programme reduced the acceptance of domestic violence and political authority. Young women in programme schools also increased their objective political knowledge. We find that this rejection of the status quo did not translate into greater perceived political efficacy, community participation or voting intentions. Instead, there is suggestive evidence that the perceived legitimacy of political violence increased.
Friedman, Willa, Michael Kremer, Edward Miguel, and Rebecca Thornton. 2015. "Education as Liberation?" Economica, 83(329): 1-30, 10.1111/ecca.12168.