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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The CEGA Research Synthesis showcases white papers, ​literature reviews, and multi-study briefs from CEGA staff, affiliates, visiting fellows, and CEGA-supported project publications authors. These research synthesis papers are typically foundational or capstone work for CEGA research initiatives, which outline theoretical frameworks and either highlight gaps in the international development literature where new rigorous evidence is necessary to inform policymaking or recap learnings from a body or research develelped over a series of studies.

Cover page of Research Recap: Can information improve the functioning of courts?

Research Recap: Can information improve the functioning of courts?


Countries where courts are weak, and rights are poorly enforced, tend to be countries with worse economic outcomes. To better understand the relationship between the functioning of judicial systems and economic growth, Dal Bó and Finan (2020) reviewed available evidence and constructed a framework for understanding the role of institutions in economic development. They note that despite the importance of the courts in resolving disputes, facilitating a healthy business climate, and protecting citizen rights, we have seen very little empirical evidence to show what makes courts function more fairly and quickly. Dal Bó and Finan systematically outlined open questions to encourage researchers to address these gaps. This helped launch the EDI programme as part of a Path-Finding Paper series. The goal of the Economic Development and Institutions (EDI) programme, an investment generously funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), is to build a body of evidence and insights into the impact of institutional changes on economic growth.

Cover page of Experimental Insights on the Constraints to Agricultural Technology Adoption

Experimental Insights on the Constraints to Agricultural Technology Adoption


Policymakers interested in improving the productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers in SubSaharan Africa and South Asia need to understand what prevents farmers from adopting technologies and effectively accessing markets. We summarize recent experimental evidence on constraints to agricultural technology adoption among smallholder farmers in these regions. The evidence presented builds from a series of policy insight summaries produced by the Agricultural Technology Adoption Initiative (ATAI). The underlying studies have been selected (and in many cases funded) by ATAI because they provide evidence using randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to understand and improve the low take-up of agricultural technology in the developing world. These summaries have been structured intellectually by the economic constraint they seek to address, and we present here the four constraints that have seen the largest amount of experimental work in recent years: credit and savings; risk; information; and input and output markets. In the sections that follow, we briefly motivate the role of each specific constraint, provide a summary of the recent experimental evidence and key outstanding questions, and work to draw a series of conclusions relevant for agricultural policy and practice.

Cover page of At the Intersection: A Review of Institutions in Economic Development

At the Intersection: A Review of Institutions in Economic Development


We present accepted basic arguments on the role of institutions in development and then discuss the corresponding empirical evidence in support (or not) of those arguments. Methodologically, our emphasis is on experimental evidence wherever available, and thematically we focus on political and legal institutions. In the political sphere, we distinguish between rules shaping representation and accountability, and state capacity. In the legal sphere we distinguish between the profile of legally sanctioned rights (such as property rights and the role of informality) and the workings of the judiciary and the quality of enforcement. We distil the lessons learned from the literature and present open questions in each topic, thus highlighting promising avenues for future empirical research.