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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Among Ghana's Rural Poor is Effective Regardless of Baseline Mental Distress
with Gharad Bryan, Dean Karlan, Angela Ofori-Atta, and Christopher Udry
American Economic Review: Insights 4, no. 4 (2022): 527-45.
We study the impact of group-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for individuals selected from the general population of poor households in rural Ghana (N=7,227). Results from 1-3 months after the program show strong impacts on mental and perceived physical health, cognitive and socioemotional skills, and economic self-perceptions. These effects hold regardless of baseline mental distress. We argue that this is because CBT can improve well-being for a general population of poor individuals through two pathways: reducing vulnerability to deteriorating mental health, and directly increasing cognitive capacity and socioemotional skills.
The Effects of Female Land Inheritance on Economic Productivity in Ghana
How does female land inheritance affect economic productivity? I study this question in Ghana, by examining variation in inheritance customs across ethnic groups. Land passes from fathers to sons in patrilineal groups. In contrast, inheritance rules are more flexible in matrilineal groups; land can pass to both men and women. This flexibility improves productivity by allowing men and women to better optimize their labor allocation, taking into account gender differences in the outside options available. In matrilineal groups, women are more likely to inherit land, which leads to them managing farms and supplying labor to their own plots. Their inheritance induces men to exit agriculture and work for a wage. This improves male labor productivity and produces higher per capita consumption. In contrast, because women face additional barriers to participating in the labor market, male inheritance under patrilineal inheritance is associated with women supplying labor to male-owned plots, and supplying less labor in total. Two mechanisms explain the higher male labor productivity associated with greater female inheritance: (1) men who exit farming capture the returns to their skill, because the wage labor market rewards cognitive skill, while farming does not, and (2) the wage labor market offers an earnings premium over agriculture. This gain does not come at the expense of reduced farm productivity, which does not differ across the two inheritance regimes. Male-only inheritance customs thus not only foster gender inequality in land ownership, but can also facilitate labor misallocation, thereby lowering overall productivity.
The Fading Treatment Effects of a Multi-Faceted Asset-Transfer Program in Ethiopia
with Dean Karlan, Christopher Udry, and Kelsey Wright
We study the long-run effects of a big-push “graduation” program in Ethiopia in which very poor households received a one-time transfer of productive assets (mainly livestock), technical training, and access to savings accounts. After seven years, treatment effects on wealth and consumption remain economically meaningful but dissipated relative to the two- and three-year results. Treatment effects on other outcomes attenuated further. Based on absolute wellbeing (e.g., food security) not dropping, we argue that the treatment effect dissipation is driven primarily by improved living standards for control households, rather than losses of the previously accrued benefits for the treatment households.
Migration and Resilience during a Global Crisis
with C. Austin Davis, Paula López-Peña, Harrison Mitchell, A. Mushfiq Mobarak, Karim Naguib, Maira Emy Reimão, Ashish Shenoy, and Corey Vernot
Revised and Resubmitted, European Economic Review
UNU-Wider Working Paper 2020/139. 2020.
Using detailed microdata, we document how migration-dependent households are especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. We create pre- and post-COVID panel datasets for three populations in Bangladesh and Nepal, leveraging experimental and observational variation in prior migration dependence. We report 25 per cent greater declines in earnings and fourfold greater prevalence of food insecurity among migrant households since March. Causes include lower migration rates, less remittance income per migrant, isolation in origin communities, and greater health risks. We compile a large set of secondary data to demonstrate the extent of vulnerability worldwide and conclude with recommendations for policy targeted at migrants.
Research in Progress
Understanding Barriers to Youth Employment in Kenya
with Rob Garlick and Kate Orkin
Relaxing Seasonal Liquidity Constraints in Northern Ghana
with Abhijit Banerjee, Dean Karlan, Robert Osei, Isaac Osei-Akoto, and Christopher Udry
The Gendered Impacts of Rural Electrification in Ghana
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