Slides for My Talk at the Cornell Institute for African Development

I was in Ithaca last week to give a talk at Cornell’s Institute for African Development (and, incidentally, work with coauthors on a few projects). The title of my talk was “The Food Security Impacts of Participation in Agricultural Value Chains.”

If you have an interest in the topic of agricultural value chains and contract farming, you can find my slides here. Comments are most welcome, given that the results therein are very preliminary.

Extreme Weather and Civil War

The abstract of a great new article by Jean-François Maystadt and Olivier Ecker in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics titled “Extreme Weather and Civil War: Does Drought Fuel Conflict in Somalia through Livestock Prices?”:

A growing body of evidence shows a causal relationship between extreme weather events and civil conflict incidence at the global level. We find that this causality is also valid for droughts and local violent conflicts in a within-country setting over a short time frame in the case of Somalia. We estimate that a one standard deviation increase in drought intensity and length raises the likelihood of conflict by 62%. We also find that drought affects conflict through livestock price changes, establishing livestock markets as the primary channel of transmission in Somalia.

The emphasis is mine. And in case anyone wondered, I was not a reviewer for this paper (and generally, I try not blog about the papers I get to review…)

22 Tips for Conference and Seminar Presentations

A graduate student whose (excellent) second-year paper was accepted at a few conferences came to my office last week to ask me how she should prepare her conference presentations. Because I have never given much thought to how I actually do prepare for conference and seminar presentations, I told her I would write a blog post on the topic after thinking about it. So here is my list of tips on how to prepare conference and seminar presentations, in no particular order. I’m sure I’m forgetting many things; please feel free to include your own best tips in the comments section. Continue reading

Three PhD Fellowships to Study Food Security at the University of Minnesota

Waite Library at Ruttan Hall (Source: UMN).
Waite Library in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota (Source: UMN).

For those of you who (i) are thinking of going to graduate school, (ii) have an interest in food security, and (iii) happen to be US citizens, I am happy to announce that my colleague Tim Beatty and I were recently awarded a $262,500 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture‘s (NIFA) National Needs Graduate Fellowship program.

This grant will fund three PhD students, providing each of them with a three-year fellowship. The theme of the grant is food security broadly defined. So for example, a fellow could study any aspect of food security, from undernutrition in sub-Saharan Africa to food stamps in the US, and everything else in between. That said, for students interested in international development, the grant does include some money for international travel–not enough to fund data collection, but enough to fund exploratory field visits. Continue reading

Rookie Mistakes in Empirical Analysis

On the Worthwhile Canadian Initiative blog, Frances Woolley had a good post about why beginner econometricians get so worked up about the wrong things:

[I]t is rare that I will have someone come to my office hours and ask “Have I chosen my sample appropriately?” Instead, year after year, students are obsessed about learning how to use probit or logit models, as if their computer would explode, or the god of econometrics would smite them down, if they were to try to explain a 0-1 dependent variable by running an ordinary least squares regression.

I try to explain: “Look, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make much difference to your results. It’s hard to come up with an intuitive interpretation of what logit and probit coefficients mean, and it’s a hassle to calculate the marginal effects. You can run logit or probit if you want, but run a linear probability model as well, so I can tell whether or not anything weird is going on with the regression.”

But they just don’t believe me. Continue reading