Category: Africa

Summary and Slides of My Talk on Female Genital Cutting

Last week I gave talks — the same talk twice, really — in London and in Frankfurt on female genital cutting.

As it turns out, the nice folks at the London International Development Centre have a posted a nice summary of my talk (complete with a picture of me giving the talk) here, along with the slides for my presentation.

I have talked about this paper a few times already on this blog, but the paper keeps improving. The version of the paper in the slides available from the LIDC website covers both Senegal and the Gambia, and it discusses how and speculates about why the persistence of FGC differs between the two countries.

New Working Paper: Explaining the Persistence of Female Genital Cutting in The Gambia

Why does female genital cutting (FGC) persist in certain places while has declined elsewhere? Using survey data from the Gambia, we study an important aspect of the persistence of FGC, namely the relationship between (i) whether a woman has undergone FGC and (ii) her support for the practice. Our data exhibit sufficient intrahousehold variation in both FGC status and in support for the practice to allow controlling for unobserved heterogeneity between households. First, our results suggest that a woman who has undergone FGC 40 percentage points more likely to be in favor of the practice, from a baseline likelihood of 40%. Second, our findings indicate that 85% of the relationship between whether a woman has undergone FGC and her support for the practice can be attributed to individual- or household-level factors, but that only 15% of that relationship can be explained by factors at the village level or beyond. This suggests that village-wide pledges against FGC, though they have worked well in neighboring Senegal, are unlikely to be effective in the Gambia. Rather, policies aimed at eliminating FGC in this context should instead target individuals and households if they are to be effective.

That’s the abstract of my most recent working paper (see here for the RepEc version, and here for the SSRN version), “All in the Family: Explaining the Persistence of Female Genital Cutting in The Gambia,” which my former Masters student Tara Steinmetz (who was a Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia) and I have been working on for quite some time. A previous version had been circulated for the Midwest International Economic Development Conference, but this one is considerably improved. As with any working paper, the caveat that these results have not yet been through the peer-review process applies. Continue reading

Managing Basis Risk with Multiscale Index Insurance

That’s the title of my article with Ghada Elabed, Michael Carter, and Catherine Guirkinger, which was just published online in Agricultural Economics. Here is the abstract:

Agricultural index insurance indemnifies a farmer against losses based on an index that is correlated with, but not identical to, her or his individual outcomes. In practice, the level of correlation may be modest, exposing insured farmers to residual, basis risk. In this article, we study the impact of basis risk on the demand for index insurance under risk and compound risk aversion. We simulate the impact of basis risk on the demand for index insurance by Malian cotton farmers using data from field experiments that reveal the distributions of risk and compound risk aversion. The analysis shows that compound risk aversion depresses demand for a conventional index insurance contract some 13 percentage points below what would be predicted based on risk aversion alone. We then analyze an innovative multiscale index insurance contract that reduces basis risk relative to conventional, single-scale index insurance contract. Simulations indicate that demand for this multiscale contract would be some 40% higher than the demand for an equivalently priced conventional contract in the population of Malian cotton farmers. Finally, we report and discuss the actual uptake of a multiscale contract introduced in Mali.

The article discusses the index insurance contract my coauthors and I have developed for and sold to cotton producer cooperatives in southern Mali. The rest of this post is more technical, as it goes into the details of the two contributions I’ve highlighted above. Continue reading

Yes to Land Rights, but Land Titles Are No Silver Bullet

Some economists argue that ensuring people have titles to their land can ensure a feeling of security and boost production. … The greatest proponent of the argument is Hernando de Soto, a development economist who has managed to win praise from the likes of Bill Clinton and the libertarian Cato Institute.

There is plenty of evidence that land rights are connected to productivity, but new research out of Madagascar shows that it is not always the case.

Duke University researcher Marc F. Bellemare tested whether the land rights component of a $100 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact with the government of Madagascar. He found that the provision of formal land rights, meaning land titles, had not measurable impact on productivity when comparing farmers that did and did not benefit from the MCC compact.

Holding a land title is not sufficient if structures are not in place to enforce land ownership and dole it out.

From a very nice article by Tom Murphy on Humanosphere, which discusses the policy implications of my forthcoming Land Economics article on land rights in Madagascar. Continue reading

Does International Child Sponsorship Work?

We have all seen the commercials on television. Many of them readily fall under the broad name of “poverty porn,” and most of them feature resigned-looking developing-world children set against a sad soundtrack. All of them ask us to help by sponsoring a child in a developing country.

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But does international child sponsorship work? In a new article (older, ungated copy here) in the Journal of Political Economy, Bruce Wydick, Paul Glewwe, and Laine Rutledge give an answer that is bound to surprise many development cynics:

Child sponsorship is a leading form of direct aid from wealthy country households to children in developing countries. Over 9 million children are supported through international sponsorship organizations. Using data from six countries, we estimate impacts on several outcomes from sponsorship through Compassion International, a leading child sponsorship organization. To identify program effects, we utilize an age-eligibility rule implemented when programs began in new villages. We find large, statistically significant impacts on years of schooling; primary, secondary, and tertiary school completion; and the probability and quality of employment. Early evidence suggests that these impacts are due, in part, to increases in children’s aspirations.