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Bases, Bullets, and Ballots: The Effect of US Military Aid on Political Conflict in Colombia

Does foreign military assistance strengthen or further weaken fragile states facing internal conflict? Aid may strengthen the state by bolstering its repressive capacity vis-à-vis armed nonstate actors or weaken it if resources are diverted to these very groups. We examine how US military aid affects political violence in Colombia. . . 
Oeindrila Dube, New York University / Suresh Naidu, Columbia University

Site Selection Bias in Program Evaluation

“Site selection bias” can occur when the probability that a program is adopted or evaluated is correlated with its impacts. I test for site selection bias in the context of the Opower energy conservation programs, using 111 randomized control trials involving 8.6 million households across the U.S. Predictions based on rich microdata from the first ten replications substantially overstate efficacy in the next 101 sites...
Hunt Alcott

Breaking Clientelism or Rewarding Incumbents? Evidence From an Urban Titling Program in Mexico

Clientelism is common in developing countries, and often detrimentally affects political accountability and public good provision. However, little is known empirically about how clientelistic ties can be broken, particularly because policy reforms that could reduce voter dependence on incumbents for special favors may also cause voters to reward the reform's architects. 

Larreguy, Horacio, John Marshall, and Laura Trucco

Aspirations and Inequality

This paper develops a theory in which society-wide economic outcomes shape individual milestones or aspirations, which affect the investment incentives of individuals. Through its impact on investments, individual milestones in turn affect ambient social outcomes. We explore this two-way link. A central feature is that aspirations that are moderately above an individual’s current standard of living tend to encourage investment, while still higher aspirations may lead to frustration and lower investment . . . 

Productivity Response in Contract Change

We study a contract change for tea pluckers on an Indian plantation, obeying a government notification stipulating a new minimum wage. Baseline wages were hiked, and marginal piece rates lowered. Yet, in the following month, output increased by 20–80%. This response contradicts the standard model and several variants, is only partly explicable by greater supervision, and appears to be “behavioral.” Yet in subsequent months, the increase is comprehensively reversed. While not an unequivocal indictment of “behavioral” models, these findings suggest that non-standard responses may be ephemeral, and should ideally be tracked over an extended period of time . . . 

From Local to Global: External Validity in a Fertility Natural Experiment

Experimental evidence on a range of interventions in developing countries is accumulating rapidly. Is it possible to extrapolate from an experimental evidence base to other locations of policy interest (from “reference” to “target” sites)? And which factors determine the accuracy of such an extrapolation? We investigate applying the Angrist and Evans (1998) natural experiment (the effect of boy-boy or girl-girl as the first two children on incremental fertility and mothers’ labor force participation) to data from International IPUMS on 166 country-year censuses. We define the external validity function with extrapolation error depending on covariate differences between reference and target locations, and find that smaller differences in geography, education, calendar year, and mothers’ labor force participation lead to lower extrapolation error . . . 

Incorporating Climate Uncertainty into Estimates of Climate Change Impacts

Quantitative estimates of the impacts of climate change on economic outcomes are important for public policy. We show that the vast majority of estimates fail to account for well-established uncertainty in future temperature and rainfall changes, leading to potentially misleading projections. We reexamine seven well-cited studies and show that accounting for climate uncertainty leads to a much larger range of projected climate impacts and a greater likelihood of worst-case outcomes, an important policy parameter. Incorporating climate uncertainty into future economic impact assessments will be critical for providing the best possible information on potential impacts.
Shanker Satyanath, Marshall Burke, John Dykema, David B. Lobell, Edward Miguel

Unintended Negative Consequences of Rewards for Student Attendance

n an experiment in non-formal schools in Indian slums, an incentive for attending a target number of school days increased average attendance when the incentive was in place, but had heterogeneous effects after it was removed. Among students with high baseline attendance, the post-incentive attendance returned to previous levels and test scores were unaffected. Among students with low baseline attendance, post-incentive attendance dropped even below previous levels, and test scores decreased . . . 

Do Natural Resources Influence Who Comes to Power, and How?

Do natural resources impair institutional outcomes? Existing work studies how natural resources influence the behavior of leaders in power. We study how they influence who comes to power. Our analysis focuses on oil price shocks and local democracy in Colombia, a country mired in civil conflict. We find that when the price of oil rises internationally, legislators affiliated with right-wing paramilitary groups win office more in oil-producing municipalities. These effects are larger in conflict-ridden locations, where armed groups are poised to intervene in local elections . . . 

Renewable Natural Resource Shocks and Conflict Intensity: Findings from India’s Ongoing Maoist Insurgency

An interesting stream of the civil conflict literature has identified an important subset of civil conflicts with disastrous consequences, that is, those that emerge as a consequence of shocks to renewable natural resources like land and water. This literature is, however, reliant on qualitative case studies when claiming a causal relationship leading from renewable resource shocks to conflict. In this article, we seek to advance the literature by drawing out the implications of a well-known formal model of the renewable resources–conflict relationship and then conducting rigorous statistical tests of its implications in the case of a serious ongoing civil conflict in India. We find that a one standard deviation decrease in our measure of renewable resources increases killings by nearly 60 percent over the long run . . . 
Shanker Satyanath, Kishore Gawande, Devesh Kapur