Research

My research interest are in applied microeconomics economics and rigorous evaluation based on econometric theory. My current research studies the bi-directional relationship between poverty and mental health. In addition, I am interested in the dynamics of poverty and the interaction of psychology, decision-making, and poverty traps. My secondary research field is labor and I’m interested in how decisions about labor supply interact with poverty and psychological well-being.

I am interested in collaboration on all sorts of topics in development, behavioral economics, applied econometrics, health, and labor. Feel free to contact me!

Job Market Paper
Income, Psychological Well-being, and the Dynamics of Poverty
(Latest draft available here JMP – Updated November 20, 2018)

Abstract: Evidence across disciplines suggests that economic well-being affects an individual’s psychological well-being, and also that psychological disorders can have substantial negative effects on individual income. Together, these studies suggest a feedback loop that may trap some in poverty. However, estimating these causal links is difficult due to this simultaneous causality. In this paper, I overcome this endogeneity with a panel GMM approach that estimates a dynamic system of equations where income and psychological well-being are simultaneously determined. Using a nationally representative dataset from South Africa, I find evidence of nonlinear impacts in both directions. The average effect of changes in psychological well-being on income is mainly driven by a large effect near the clinical depression threshold where I estimate that a 1 standard deviation decrease in psychological well-being leads to 17% loss in earnings. Meanwhile, the effect of changes in income on psychological well-being is especially pronounced among the poor where a 20\% decrease in household income leads to 0.1 standard deviation decrease in psychological well-being — or a 0.4% point increase in the likelihood of depression. These results indicate the possibility of a strong feedback loop among an especially vulnerable subgroup — the poor with low levels of psychological well-being. An impulse response function analysis shows that this bi-directionality can nearly double the long-term impact of shocks, while simulations show that this relationship can explain prolonged poverty spells and low resilience to shocks.

Previous versions were circulated under the title “Unpacking the Causal Relationships between Income and Psychological Well-being”

Peer-reviewed articles:

Economic Life in Refugee Camps (2017). World Development (95) 334-347
(with J. Ed Taylor, Anubhab Gupta, Irvin Rojas, & Ernesto Gonzalez)
access here

Economics Impact of Refugees (2016). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113(27) 7449–7453
(with J. Ed Taylor, Mateusz Filipski, Anubhab Gupta, Irvin Rojas, & Ernesto Gonzalez)
open access here

Informality and Exclusion: Evidence from Matched Employer-Employee data for Lebanon and Syria (2013). IZA Journal of Labor Policy 2(18)
(with Roberta Gatti, Joana Silva, & Carole Chartouni)
open access here

Working Papers:

Economic Well-being, Poverty Dynamics, and Happiness

Personality Traits and Economic Shocks among the Ultra-poor
(with Sikhar Mehra and Yaniv Stopnitzky)

Ongoing projects:

Impact Evaluation of the South Africa Land Restitution Program
(with Michael Carter and Malcolm Keswell)

Impact Evaluation of a poverty graduation program in Lebanon
(Principal Investigator and consultant for the World Bank, with Rene Solano & Jumana El-Aref)

Measuring Resilience: The Role of Psychological Well-being and Cognitive/Executive
Functions (with Michael Carter)