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Open Access Publications from the University of California


CEGA is the West Coast hub for research on global development. Headquartered at UC Berkeley, CEGA’s large, interdisciplinary research network—including a growing number of scholars from low- and middle-income countries—identifies and tests innovations designed to reduce poverty and promote development. Our researchers use rigorous methods as well as novel measurement tools—including wireless sensors, mobile data, and analytics—to evaluate complex programs. Through careful matchmaking, competitive grantmaking, and research dissemination activities, CEGA ensures that the research we produce is relevant, timely, and actionable to policymakers.

Center for Effective Global Action

There are 277 publications in this collection, published between 2009 and 2023.
Agriculture for Development (17)

Agricultural Productivity and Mortality: Evidence from Kagera, Tanzania

We ask whether prime-age adult mortality due to HIV/AIDS decreases the endowment of knowledge for agricultural production in Kagera, Tanzania, reducing total factor productivity. We also quantify how much this negative effect contributes to the decrease in long-term household agricultural income growth compared to the contribution of decreased accumulation of productive assets; household members, land, and livestock. We find that prime-age adult mortality decreases the accumulation of knowledge stock as total factor productivity and the contribution of this negative effect to the decrease in agricultural income growth is larger than the contribution of decreased accumulation of each productive asset.

Inequality, Agricultural Production and Poverty: With Focus on Large-scale / Small-scale Sugarcane Farms in South Africa.

International development agencies have renewed interest over agriculture’s pro-poor potentials. South Africa’s agriculture though contributes less than 3% to GDP, has the highest employment per unit of GDP. The sector is sharply divided into small and large farms. Data reveals an increasing land productivity gap between both types of farms. Using data from various sources1, this paper assesses the agricultural production impacts of inequality and land redistribution, first in the whole agricultural sector, then the sugarcane sub-sector, comparing small-scale and largescale farm performances and considering the causes of the productivity gap. It also analyses the comparative poverty effects of both farm-types. Time series are corrected for unit roots and estimated using robust estimation, which corrects for heteroskedasticity and outliers. Specification tests help to determine the right panel model for sugarcane. The results suggest that inequality (land redistribution) is associated with slower (enhanced) agricultural productivity. This positive effect of land redistribution can be because land constraints in South African large farms may not be binding and therefore the negative impact on large-farms does not dominate. The impact of land redistribution though negative for large-scale and positive for small-scale producers is not significant. This implies that redistribution efforts must be accompanied by significant ease of other constraints facing small farmers. Other inputs like fertiliser and irrigation facilities show more significant impact on small farm production than land alone. Much of the difference in productivity arises from disparity in input use, specifically fertiliser and irrigation. There is possibility of positive external effects from large-scale chemical and labour use to small-scale production as they attenuate the gap in productivities. The finding also suggests the need to strengthen the human capital (particularly education) of small-scale producers. Both large and small-scale sugarcane production have significant poverty reduction effects, but the effect from small-scale production is clearly higher.

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CEGA Working Papers (230)

Scabs: The Social Suppression of Labor

Social norms have the potential to alter the functioning of economic markets. We test whether norms shape the aggregate labor supply curve by preventing workers from supplying labor at wage cuts—leading decentralized individuals to implicitly behave as a cartel to maintain wage floors in their local labor markets. We partner with 183 existing employers, who offer jobs to 502 workers in informal spot labor markets in India. Unemployed workers are privately willing to accept jobs below the prevailing wage, but rarely do so when this choice is observable to other workers. In contrast, social observability does not affect labor supply at the prevailing wage. Workers give up 49% of average weekly earnings to avoid being seen as breaking the social norm. In addition, workers pay to punish anonymous laborers who have accepted wage cuts—indicating that cartel behavior is reinforced through the threat of social sanctions. Punishment occurs for workers in one’s own labor market and for those in distant regions, suggesting the internalization of norms in moral terms. Finally, consistent with the idea that norms could have aggregate implications, measures of social cohesion correlate with downward wage rigidity and business cycle volatility across India.

Evaluation Of A National Program To Distribute Free Masks For COVID-19 Prevention In Uganda: Evidence From Mbale District

The slow rollout of vaccines in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and the emergence of new COVID-19 variants underscore the critical role masks continue to play two years into the pandemic. Given face masks’ low cost and relative ease of use, a key question facing policymakers is whether populations are heeding the advice to wear masks, and what strategies are especially effective to encourage mask take-up. We evaluated a national program to distribute masks in Uganda, which reached the Mbale District in March 2021, to assess whether distribution of free masks alone or distribution paired with education about masks and COVID-19 encourages mask use.

Do Commodity Price Shocks Cause Armed Conflict? A Meta-Analysis of Natural Experiments

Scholars of the resource curse argue that reliance on primary commodities destabilizes governments: price fluctuations generate windfalls or periods of austerity that provoke or intensify conflict. 350 quantitative studies test this claim, but prominent results point in different directions, making it difficult to discern which results reliably hold across contexts. We conduct a meta-analysis of 46 natural experiments that use difference-in-difference designs to estimate the causal effect of international commodity price changes on armed conflict. We show commodity price changes, on average, do not change conflict risks. However, this overall effect comprises cross-cutting effects by commodity type. In line with theory, we find price increases in labor-intensive agricultural commodities reduce conflict, while increases in the price of oil, a capital-intensive commodity, provoke conflict. We also find that prices changes for lootable artisanal minerals provoke conflict. Our meta-analysis consolidates existing evidence, but also highlights gaps for future research to fill.

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CEGA White Papers (12)

Thematic Insight: Motivating and monitoring public service provision

The ability to recruit, elicit effort from, and retain civil servants is a central issue for any government. Poor performance of frontline civil servants (e.g., teachers, health workers, tax collectors) suggests that governments need to find and deploy more effective approaches to improve the delivery of public services that underpin human and economic development. In this brief, we discuss preliminary findings from ongoing impact evaluations that test two types of tools - incentives and information - that policymakers can use to improve the quality of public services delivered to citizens. We will explore how policymakers can leverage incentives to select, motivate, and retain civil servants; and how information and monitoring can be used to motivate both direct employees (i.e., civil servants), and indirect employees (i.e., contractors).

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Energy and Economic Growth (18)

A Review and Exploration of the Status, Context and Political Economy of Power Sector Reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America

This paper provides an overview of market-oriented power sector reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America over the past twenty-five years. The role of political economy contextualities in driving, constraining or otherwise influencing power sector reform is explored through a review of the essential literature. Though this literature is considered to have considerably expanded the scope of understanding around power sector reform and development, political economy research in the area is found to be lacking in methodological coherence and theoretical substance. Future efforts are needed to systematically bring together the array of insights, methodological approaches and recommendations in this literature, as well as better bound, differentiate and systemise political economy research in the area going forward. Two initial frameworks are advanced through this paper in relation to this dual research imperative.

Economic and Non-Economic Barriers and Drivers for the Uptake of Renewables

Large scale renewables raise new challenges and provide new opportunities across electricity systems. This paper considers the barriers faced by large scale renewables in electricity systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. We review the current state of knowledge in relation to grid-connected renewables. This paper then explores key issues in electricity systemstructure, the main challenges to the uptake of renewables, and the various existing fiscal and policy approaches to encouraging renewables. We also highlight possible ways moving forward to ensure more widespread renewables deployment.

Electricity Market Design and Renewables Integration in Developing Countries

This paper identifies the key features of successful electricity market designs that are particularly relevant to the experience of low-income countries. Important features include: (1) the match between the short-term market used to dispatch generation units and the physical operation of the electricity network, (2) effective regulatory and market mechanisms to ensure long-term generation resource adequacy, (3) appropriate mechanisms to mitigate local market power, and (4) mechanisms to allow the active involvement of final demand in a short-term market. The paper provides a recommended baseline market design that reflects the experience of the past 25 years with electricity restructuring processes. It then suggests a simplified version of this market design ideally suited to the proposed East and Western Sub-Sahara Africa regional wholesale market that is likely to realise a substantial amount of the economic benefits from forming a regional market with minimal implementation cost and regulatory burden. Recommendations are also provided for modifying the Southern African Power Pool to increase the economic benefits realised from its formation. How this market design supports the cost-effective integration of renewables is discussed and future enhancements are proposed that support the integration of a greater share of intermittent renewables. The paper closes with proposed directions for future research in the area of electricity market design in developing countries.

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