Initiatives & Projects

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The Center has four core initiative areas: Human CapitalFirms and Innovation, Politics, Institutions, and Conflict and AI and Development.

Human Capital Initiative

The Human Capital Initiative focuses on understanding the productive potential embodied in individuals – their skills, health, and other capabilities. Particularly in developing countries, this is the main asset people own. The initiative focuses on two questions:

  1. What are the factors that shape individuals’ accumulation of human capital? We investigate what factors lead people to invest in health or education for themselves, for their family members, or their fellow citizens, as well as how the structure of education and health markets affects countries’ levels of human capital.
  2. What are the consequences of such investments for economic outcomes? This question encompasses issues such as to the extent to which increased human capital raises people’s wages, and the extent to which it enhances countries’ economic growth.

As part of this initative, in partnership with SIPA, Columbia Entrepreneurship, the Nasdaq Educational FoundationFundação Lemann, and the Unicef Office of Global Innovation, CDEP has launched a Global EdTech program (led by Sarah Holloway) to explore innovations and entrepreneurs in K-12 education across the globe that leverage technology.

The Human Capital Initiative is led by CDEP Co-Director Cristian Pop-Eleches.

Firms and Innovation Projects

The Firms and Innovation Initiative is motivated by the view that one of the best anti-poverty programs is a steady job at a wage sufficient to support the basic needs of a household. Such jobs are more likely to be available when an economy’s industrial sector is thriving when firms are growing and investing in their workforces. Innovation – understood broadly to mean all types of learning: how to produce new products, how to reduce costs, how to upgrade quality, how to manage an organization – is a key driver of industrial development.

Why are some firms able to innovate and some not? Why are some industries and regions populated by dynamic, innovative firms and some not? What role can public policy play in overcoming market failures and stimulating innovation and industrial development? These are core questions for the initiative.

The Firms and Innovation Initiative is led by CDEP Co-Director Eric Verhoogen.

Politics, Institutions, and Conflict Projects

The Politics, Institutions, and Conflict Initiative sees conflict and disorder as one of the greatest threats to development and the development of good government as a means to economic prosperity as well as an important end in itself. But what is “good government,” and how does it come about, both historically and in the modern day? What causes conflict, and what policies and interventions can move violent fighting into the realm of peaceful political competition?

The Politics, Institutions, and Conflict Initiative is led by CDEP Affiliate Suresh Naidu.

AI and Development

The AI and Development initiative incubates projects using technology to better serve the world's poor. Developing economies have already built out mobile phone networks and internet connections. This infrastructure allows the fluid movement of information, and increasingly enables decisions to be made by algorithms. We consider how algorithms can be used in service of the poor, and how they can be made more robust, transparent, and better aligned with societal values.

The AI and Development Initiative is led by CDEP Affiliate Daniel Björkegren.



Current Projects

Training Machine Learning To Anticipate Manipulation
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Daniel Björkegren, Joshua Blumenstock, and Samsun Knight

Auditing the Values Underlying Policies
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Daniel Björkegren, Joshua Blumenstock, and Samsun Knight

Welfare-Sensitive Machine Learning  
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Daniel Björkegren, Joshua Blumenstock

Delivering early-grade education in pockets of extreme poverty
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Alex Eble

Understanding the role of beliefs and information in shaping human capital
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Alex Eble

Understanding Human Capital Accumulation in Developing Countries: A Field Experiment with Adaptive Technologies
Investigators: Supreet Kaur, Heather Schofield, and Sidra Rehman

Assymetric Information in the Household: Fathers and Child Welfare
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Anja Benshaul Tolonen

Global Ed-Tech
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Sarah Holloway

Schooling, Stigma and Periods Among Adolescent Girls in Eastern Africa
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Anja Benshaul Tolonen

Teacher-Student Interactions and Child Outcomes: Evidence from Romanian Secondary Schools
Investigators: CDEP Co-Director Cristian Pop-Eleches, CDEP Affiliate Miguel Urquiola, and Ofer Malamud 

Externalities and Complementarities of AIDS Prevention Interventions: Evidence from Malawian Secondary Schools
Investigators: CDEP Co-Director Cristian Pop-Eleches, Booyuel Kim, and Hyuncheol Kim

Lava Jato Beyond the Headlines: Expert Perspectives on a Vast Corruption Scandal
Investigator: Paul Lagunes (edited with CDEP Affiliate Jan Svejnar)

The Watchful Eye and the Cracking Whip: A Field Experiment on Corruption Monitoring in Mexico
Investigator: Paul Lagunes

African Mining Booms and Local Welfare
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Anja Benshaul-Tolonen

Barriers to Social Learning Among Smallholder Farms
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Jack Willis and Raissa Fabregas

Land Rental Markets: Experimental Evidence from Kenya
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Jack Willis, Michelle Acampora, and Lorenzo Casaburi

Evaluating Contract Farming
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Jack Willis and Lorenzo Casaburi

How Do Managers' Beliefs About New Technologies Evolve?
Investigators: CDEP Co-Director Eric Verhoogen, Ritam Chaurey, Siddharth Sharma, Gaurav Nayyar, and Yunfan Gu 

Can Enforcement Interventions by Multinationals Help Improve Labor Standards in Developing Countries
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Laura Boudreau

Promoting High Impact Entrepreneurship in Mexico: A Randomized Evaluation
Investigator: CDEP Co-Director Eric Verhoogen

Completed Projects

Assessing Digital Bias in Developing Countries
Investigators: Sveta Milusheva, CDEP Affiliate Daniel Björkegren, and Leonardo Viotti

Digital Credit Scoring 
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Daniel Björkegren and Darrell Grissen

Does Universalization of Health Work?  Evidence from Health Systems Restructuring and Maternal and Child Health in Brazil
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Rodrigo Soares

Selection on Ability and Early Career Growth in the Gender Wage Gap
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Rodrigo Soares

Climate Change, Health and Gender Gaps in Human Capital Investment
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Belinda Archibong and CDEP Fellow Francis Annan

Financial Incentives and the Fertility-Sex Ratio Trade-off
Investigator: S Anukriti

Getting the Poor to Enroll in Health Insurance and its Effects on their Health: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment in Ghana
Investigators: CDEP Fellow Patrick Asuming and Hyuncheol Kim

The Big Sort: College Reputation and Labor Market Outcomes
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Rodrigo Soares

Nominal Wage Rigidity in Village Labor Markets
Investigator: Supreet Kaur

Firm-Level Upgrading in Developing Countries
Investigator: CDEP Co-Director Eric Verhoogen

Spillovers from Special Economic Zones: Evidence from Myanmar
Investigators: Amit Khandelwal, Rocco Machiavello, and Matthieu Teachout

Exclusionary Hiring or Assortative Matching? The Impact of Hiring and Pay Policies on Racial Wage Differences in Brazil
Investigators: François Gerard, David Card, Lorenzo Lagos, and Edson Severnini

Market Based Emissions Policies
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Douglas Almond and Shuang Zhang

Unraveling the Market Structure Behind International Migration
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Suresh Naidu, Shing-Yi Wang, and Yaw Nyarko

Ethnic Divisions and Production in Firms
Investigator: Jonas Hjort

Barriers to Trade: Contracting Failures in Irrigation Markets
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Supreet Kaur and Ryan Bubb .

The Real Effects of Elecronic Wage Payments: A Field Experiment with Salaried Factory Workers in Bangladesh
Investigators: Emily Breza, Martin Kanz, and Leora Klapper

Enlisting Workers in Improving Payroll-Tax Compliance: Evidence from Mexico
Investigators: Todd Kumler, CDEP Co-Director Eric Verhoogen, and Judith Frías  

North-South Displacement Effects of Environmental Regulation: The Case of Battery Recycling
Investigators: Shinsuke Tanaka, Kensuke Teshima, and CDEP Co-Director Eric Verhoogen

Time vs. State in Insurance: Experimental Evidence from Contract Farming in Kenya
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Jack Willis

Tax Systems and Inter-Firm Trade: Evidence from the VAT in Brazil
Investigators: François Gerard, Joana Naritomi, and Arthur Seibold

The Arrival of Fast Internet and Skilled Job Creation in Africa
Investigators: Jonas Hjort and Jonas Poulsen

Electricity Cost and Firm Performance: Evidence from India
Investigator: Ama Baafra Abeberese

Self Control at Work
Investigators: Supreet Kaur, Michael Kremer, and Sendhil Mullainathan

Ethiopia: More Sweatshops for Africa?
Investigators: Chris Blattman and Stefan Dercon

Exports and Wage Premia: Evidence from Mexican Employer-Employee Data
Investigators: CDEP Co-Director Eric Verhoogen, David Kaplan, Judith Frías, and David Alfaro-Serrano 

Organizational Barriers to Technology Adoption: Evidence from Soccer-Ball Producers in Pakistan
Investigators: Amit Khandelwal, CDEP Co-Director Eric Verhoogen, David Atkin, Azam Chaudhry, and Shamyla Chaudry

 Economic Shocks and Crime: Evidence from the Brazilian Trade Liberalization
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Rodrigo Soares

Election by Community Consensus: Effects on Political Selection and Governance
Investigator: CDEP Fellow Ashna Arora

One-Two Punch Approach to Fighting Corruption in Public Infrastructure
Investigator: Paul Lagunes

Dynamic Transparency: An Audit of Mexico's Freedom of Information Act
Investigators: Paul Lagunes and Oscar Poscasangre

Inequality and Corruption at the Crossroads: A Multi-Method Study of Bribery and Discrimination in Latin America
Investigator: Paul Lagunes, Brian Fried, and Atheendar Venkataramani

Historical Origins of Persistent Inequality
Investigator: CDEP Affiliate Belinda Archibong

Democracy, Inequality, and Economic Development
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Suresh Naidu, Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson, and Pascual Restrepo

Elite Family Networks and the Origins of Dictatorships: Theory and Evidence from Haiti
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Suresh Naidu, Lauren Young, and James Robinson

The Impacts of An Innovative Audit Strategy on the Amount and Incidence of Retail Tax Evasion: Mystery Shoppers and Electronic Billing Machines
Investigators: Francois Gerard, Nada Eissa, and Andrew Zeitlin

Improving the Effectiveness of Public Procurement
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Andrea Prat, Oriana Bandiera, Michael Best, and Adnan Khan

Bandits or States? Stationary Bandits and Taxation in Eastern Congo
Investigators: Raul Sanchez de la Sierra and Gauthier Marchais

Worker Mobility in a Global Labor Market: Evidence from the United Arab Emirates
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Suresh Naidu, Yaw Nyarko, and Shing-Yi Wang 

Social Engineering in the Tropics: Case Study Evidence from East Congo
Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Macartan Humphreys, Raul Sanchez de la Sierra, and Peter van der Windt 

Predicting Local Violence
Investigators: Chris Blattman, Robert Blair, and Alexandra Hartman