Some of my Research

My research focuses on development, poverty alleviation, and impact evaluation of programs and policies. Below are some examples. See more on the Publications page.

Living Like There's No Tomorrow

The psychological impacts of an earthquake on savings behavior

How does a natural disaster affect survivors psychologically? On the one hand, people realize they should to self-insure against disaster, on the other they also realize they should “enjoy life while it lasts”. We use panel datasets from China’s Sichuan province, and isolate psychological impacts by focusing on those who lived in quake areas but did not themselves suffer damages or injuries. People saved less, spent more on alcohol, and played majiang more often. In this case, the “no tomorrow” tendency dominated. Article.



Beyond Experiments

Local Economy-Wide Impact Evaluation

This is a Book I co-wrote.
Click to go to the book homepage for more information and online materials

Economic Impacts of Refugees

This is a recent Article I co-wrote.

Abstract: The number of refugees displaced by civil conflict or natural disasters is on the rise. Economic impacts of refugees on host countries are controversial and little understood, because data have not been available and the question of refugee impacts does not lend itself to conventional impact evaluation methods. We use a unique Monte Carlo simulation approach with microdata from refugee and host-country surveys to obtain the first estimates of refugee camps’ impacts on surrounding host-country economies and to compare impacts of cash versus in-kind refugee aid. An additional refugee increases total real income within a 10-km radius around two cash camps by significantly more than the aid the refugee receives. Impacts around a camp receiving in-kind (food) aid are smaller.



Give a Man a Fishpond

The Economy-wide Impacts of Aquaculture in Myanmar

This is a project I am currently working on, about the impacts of aquaculture development on labor markets and rural development.

It is part of the Feed-the-Future Food Security Policy Program for Myanmar

The rapid growth of fish farming over the past three decades has generated heated debate over the role of aquaculture in rural development and poverty reduction. We build a Local Economy-wide Impact Evaluation (LEWIE) model of a fishing economy, and show that each extra acre of fish-pond (1) generates much higher incomes per-acre than agriculture; (2) generates larger income spillovers for non-farm households by way of retail and labor markets; (3) generates greater spillovers in the hands of small-scale fish-farmers than on large fish farms. These results bolster the notion that fish-farming, and in particular small-scale commercial aquaculture, may have a significant role to play in rural development and poverty reduction.

Why Are Recessions Good for your Health?

This is some research I conducted with professors from UC-Davis about mortality and unemployment.

The article explores the causes of the seemingly counter-intuitive finding that recessions are "good for your health", in the sense that mortality decreases in bad economic times. We use data on every death in the U.S.A. in 1978-2004 to decompose mortality rates and show that the inverse relationship is driven primarily by deaths among the elderly, thus narrowing down the set of potential explanations of this phenomenon.