AAEA Quality of Research Discovery Award for Bellemare, Barrett, and Just (2013)

The 2014 annual meetings of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA), which were held in Minneapolis this year, ended last night.

This was a busy conference for me given that I was presenting at three different sessions — a session on frontier topics in international development, which I organized and where I presented some preliminary results of the work I have been doing in Ethiopia with former colleagues; a session on agricultural policy, where I presented my work with Nick Carnes on why members of Congress support agricultural protection; and a session for graduate students, where I gave my thoughts about how to publish in academic journals. And if I had the gift of ubiquity, I would’ve presented in a fourth session, but thank God for coauthors.

The high point of the conference for me personally was the awards ceremony, where I received the AAEA’s Quality of Research Discovery award, which is the Association’s highest honor awarded to a piece of research. From the AAEA website: Continue reading

Food Prices and Food Riots: How High — Not Volatile — Food Prices Cause Food Riots

My article “Rising Food Prices, Food Price Volatility, and Social Unrest” was finally made available online (click here if you don’t have an institutional subscription and would like an ungated copy identical to the published version) last week by the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, roughly three years after I wrote the first draft of it. Here is the abstract:

Can food prices cause social unrest? Throughout history, riots have frequently broken out, ostensibly as a consequence of high food prices. Using monthly data at the international level, this article studies the impact of food prices – food price levels as well as food price volatility – on social unrest. Because food prices and social unrest are jointly determined, data on natural disasters are used to identify the causal relationship flowing from food price levels to social unrest. Results indicate that for the period 1990–2011, food price increases have led to increases in social unrest, whereas food price volatility has not been associated with increases in social unrest. These results are robust to alternative definitions of social unrest, to using real or nominal prices, to using commodity-specific price indices instead of aggregated price indices, to alternative definitions of the instrumental variable, to alternative definitions of volatility, and to controlling for non-food-related social unrest.

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Links: Faculty “Diversity,” a Cookbook for SNAP Recipients, GMO Wheat Genetics, 40 Maps of Food in the US

Can Development Projects Fuel Conflict?

Yes, they can, at least in places where development projects can undermine support for an insurrection. So say Crost et al. in an article (ungated earlier copy here) in the most recent issue of the American Economic Review:

We estimate the causal effect of a large development program on conflict in the Philippines through a regression discontinuity design that exploits an arbitrary poverty threshold used to assign eligibility for the program. We find that barely eligible municipalities experienced a large increase in conflict casualties compared to barely ineligible ones. This increase is mostly due to insurgent-initiated incidents in the early stages of program preparation. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that insurgents try to sabotage the program because its success would weaken their support in the population.