Seminar Series – Spring 2024

A weekly seminar featuring guest speakers presenting cutting-edge research in development economics.

Please note that the series this semester will be in person. All seminars will take place from 12:30-1:45 on Thursdays in ICC 550. 


Horacio Larreguy, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México

February 8, 2024

Accountability under polarization

Political polarization can negatively impact electoral accountability by influencing how citizens perceive and process objective information regarding the performance of incumbent governments. We study how information about government performance affects voting behavior in a polarized environment, and how this varies when additionally treating citizens with an anti-polarization nudge to incorporate counter-attitudinal information. In particular, we experimentally evaluate the electoral effects of a local CSO’s Facebook ad campaign providing citizens with benchmarked information about COVID-19 cases and deaths in 500 Mexican municipalities in the run-up to the 2021 elections.

On its own, the information had a backfiring effect, increasing (reducing) the vote share received by the local incumbent party with relatively high (low) levels of COVID-19 cases and deaths. These effects are driven by areas with high past vote share for the incumbent, higher shares of citizens with communal values, and behavior indicative of more-stressed citizens. The randomly assigned anti-polarization nudge, however, reversed the backfiring: voters electorally rewarded (punished) incumbents with relatively low (high) levels of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Our findings demonstrate how biases in information processing can undermine electoral accountability in polarized contexts, and document the potential for nudges to restore electoral accountability.


Gabriel Kreindler, Harvard University

February 15, 2024

Optimal Public Transportation Networks: Evidence from the World’s Largest Bus Rapid Transit System in Jakarta” (with Arya Gaduh, Tilman Graff, Rema Hanna, and Ben Olken).

Designing public transport networks involves tradeoffs between coverage, service frequency, and direct service. We use the expansion of the bus system in Jakarta, Indonesia, to study these tradeoffs. We analyze how new direct connections, changes in bus travel time, and wait time reductions affect bus ridership and aggregate flows, and estimate a transit network demand model by matching the route launch events. Commuters in Jakarta are 2-4 times more sensitive to wait time than bus time, and inattentive to long routes. We develop a flexible framework to characterize optimal networks. A less concentrated network would increase ridership and commuter welfare.


Eliana La Ferrara, Harvard University

February 22, 2024

“Changing Harmful Norms through Information and Coordination: Experimental Evidence from Somalia”
(with P. de Souza Ferreira, S. Gulesci, D. Smerdon and M. Sulaiman)

Female Genital Cutting (FGC) is a harmful practice affecting millions of women around the world. In Somalia, the prevalence of FGC is nearly universal (99 percent). We experimentally evaluate two interventions to decrease the prevalence of the most harmful type of FGC (infibulation) in Somalia: (1)
correcting misperceptions about the support for the practice, and (2) public declarations of community members to abandon FGC. We find that on average community members overestimate the community support for infibulation. Correcting this misperception is effective in reducing infibulation. In the short-
term, this leads to an increase in the intermediate type of FGC (Sunna), but it also increases the likelihood that parents report they plan not to cut their younger, uncut daughters. The public declaration treatment does not significantly affect infibulation, except in communities where participants had high priors about community support for abandoning the practice.


Jonah M. Rexer, The World Bank

February 29, 2024

Pricing Conflict Risk: Evidence from Sovereign Bonds


We investigate how sovereign bond markets price violent conflict. Using daily bond trading prices and information on armed conflicts over the past two decades, event-studies show that bond prices fall by 1.2% two weeks after the onset of state-involved conflict, due to increased credit risk. A bond pricing model reveals underreaction and investor learning; the share of the shock priced in rises from 14% to 75% after 15 days. Bondholders respond more to severe violence near the capital city and conflicts targeting the state, implying accurate pricing of information about conflict costs. International news media drives Bayesian learning about conflict.


Michael Kremer, The University of Chicago

March 14, 2024


Imran Rasul, University College London

March 21, 2024


Jacob Moscona, Harvard University

April 4, 2024


Francis Annan, University of California Berkeley

April 11, 2024


Michael Carlos Best, Columbia University

April 18, 2024


Vittorio Bassi, University of Southern California

April 25, 2024


Lauren Bergquist, Yale University

May 2, 2024


See past seminar series here.