Past Events Archive

Past Events Archive

In-person or on zoom, scholars from all over the world bring their expertise to the CDE and share their research. Some presentations focus on the theoretical underpinnings of economic processes, while others suggest direct policy implications. These talks expand our current curricular offerings and offer enrichment opportunities for current CDE Fellows.


Andrew Powell: Sudden Stops During COVID: The Dog that Didn’t Bark

Andrew Powell is renowned for his contributions to Latin American economic policy and development. His work influences economic strategies in the region, fostering sustainable growth and stability. His insights play a pivotal role in shaping economic discourse and policy implementation.

CDE/Per Jacobsson Speaker Series: A Conversation with Ahmad Kaikaus (CDE ’00, World Bank)

The Williams Center for Development Economics (CDE) is delighted to introduce a new initiative – the CDE/Per Jacobsson Foundation Speaker Series. On Sept. 16 and 17, Ahmad Kaikaus, Ph.D., Alternate Executive Director at the World Bank, will inaugurate the series as the first speaker for the 2023-24 academic year.

Dr. Kaikaus earned a master’s degree from Williams College as part of the CDE Class of 2000. From 2019 to 2022, he served as the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Before that, he was the Secretary to the Power Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh. His earlier experience includes working for the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., and earning a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Dallas.

On Saturday, Sept 16, 2023 at 10am ET, Dr. Kaikaus delivered a lecture about his experience as a civil servant in Bangladesh.

On Sunday, Sept 17, 2023 at 10am ET, Dr. Bernard Sheahan (Williams College) interviewed Dr. Kaikaus about key events in his career.

Jenny C. Aker: It’s all fun and games? Using WTP Experiments for Longer-Term Impacts

This paper tests whether Becker-DeGroot-Marschak (BDM) experiment can generate sustained impacts on adoption and usage of an improved storage technology. Using a randomized control trial (RCT), we find that WTP for the technology is lower than the market price, with no differential effects by gender or region. Short-run treatment effects on adoption and usage are positive. Almost two years after the experiment, we find persistent effects on adoption, usage, and storage behavior, as well as reduced use of pesticides and improved self-reported health outcomes. These results suggest that simple experiments can lead to sustained improvements in technology adoption, primarily by allowing households to experiment with the technology.

Uwe Sunde: Preference Convergence Around the World?

Individual preferences are the core of human decision making models. While recent evidence has documented profound preference heterogeneity across and within populations, little is known about its dynamics. Here we test whether heterogeneity in preferences related to time, risk, and social interactions persists or instead converges among more recent birth cohorts across and within countries. Using preference measures for 80,000 individuals elicited in representative samples of 76 countries from all continents, we find evidence of preference convergence among more recent cohorts across countries, both in terms of differences in location (means) and scale (standard deviations). Similar convergence patterns are found among women and men within countries. These convergence patterns obtain for countries at different levels of economic development, with different ethnic composition and historical population flows, and do not reflect convergence to preferences of the US population. (joint work with Rainer Kotschy)

Ralph Chami: Toward a Nature-Based Economy

More info soon

Ralph Chami: Remittances into Low-and Middle-Income Fragile States and Macroeconomic Consequences

A photo of Ralph Chami

Pascual Restrepo: The Task Approach to the Labor Market

Further readings:

Martin Guzman: Addressing Sovereign Debt Crises after Covid-19 and War

Professor of Economics at Columbia U and a former Minister of Economy of the Republic of Argentina, Dr. Guzman had led the management of a sovereign debt crisis that included the second largest sovereign debt restructuring in history (2020). He also developed the economic policy to manage the Covid-19 pandemic in the context of the debt and inflation crises. He will address these and many other initiatives in his talk.

Uwe Sunde: Medication Against Conflict

The consequences of successful public health interventions for social violence and conflict are largely unknown. This paper closes this gap by evaluating the effect of a major health intervention – the successful expansion of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic – in Africa. To identify the effect, we combine exogenous variation in the scope for treatment and global variation in drug prices. We find that the ART expansion significantly reduced the number of violent events in African countries and sub-national regions. The effect pertains to social violence and unrest, not civil war. The evidence also shows that the effect is not explained by general improvements in economic prosperity, but related to health improvements, greater approval of government policy, and increased trust in political institutions. Results of a counterfactual simulation reveal the largest potential gains in countries with intermediate HIV prevalence where disease control has been given relatively low priority.

Salifou Issoufou: The Role of the IMF in Fragile and Conflict-affected Countries.

The core mandate of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is to foster international financial cooperation and stability by providing policy advice, lending, and capacity development to its member countries. A significant part of its membership, the fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS) face a variety of protracted challenges – from reduced institutional capacity, limited public service delivery, and extreme poverty to forced displacement and war. The implications of fragility and conflict are macro-critical and relevant to the IMF’s mandate. Fragility and/or conflict destabilize balance of payments positions, disrupt trade and financial flows, and hinder the development of productive resources. Social, economic, political, and security crises in FCS can threaten macroeconomic stability and inclusive growth prospects in neighboring countries and regions. This year, the IMF adopted a new strategy aimed at enhancing its engagement in FCS. Key elements of the strategy include a greater tailoring of IMF’s engagement and instruments to the country-specific manifestations of fragility and conflict; a closer proximity to our most vulnerable members; and enhanced partnerships to amplify the IMF’s impacts in FCS.

photo of Salifou Issoufou 2022

Quentin Wodon: Investing in Human Development in sub-Saharan Africa

Investing in Human Development in sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and Opportunities

Photo of Quentin Wodon

Owen Ozier: Can Education be Standardized?

Can Education be Standardized? Evidence from Kenya


We examine the impact of enrolling in schools that employ a highly-standardized approach to education, using random variation from a large nationwide scholarship program. Bridge International Academies not only delivers highly detailed lesson guides to teachers using tablet computers, it also standardizes systems for daily teacher monitoring and feedback, school construction, and financial management. At the time of the study, Bridge operated over 400 private schools serving more than 100,000 pupils. It hired teachers with less formal education and experience than public school teachers, paid them less, and had more working hours per week. Enrolling at Bridge for two years increased test scores by 0.89 additional equivalent years of schooling (EYS) for primary school pupils and by 1.48 EYS for pre-primary pupils. These effects are in the 99th percentile of effects found for at-scale programs studied in a recent survey. Enrolling at Bridge reduced both dispersion in test scores and grade repetition. Test score results do not seem to be driven by rote memorization or by income effects of the scholarship.

Full text is available.

a photo of  Ozier

Phil Gerson: Fiscal Rules and COVID–Preliminary Evidence

A number of countries–Advanced Economy, Emerging Market and Low-Income–entered the COVID crisis with fiscal rules that were intended to help meet debt and/or deficit objectives. Despite concerns that these rules might constrain the ability of countries to respond to large shocks, debt and deficits rose markedly among almost all these countries during the pandemic. Moreover, countries that more successfully complied with their fiscal rules prior to the pandemic typically responded more forcefully than others to COVID, possibly reflecting greater credibility or fiscal space. Thus, there is reason to believe that the adoption (and implementation) of fiscal rules can actually enhance the capacity of fiscal authorities to deal with large shocks. However, debt and deficits now stand at unprecedented levels in many countries, and experience from prior episodes indicates that it may take many years for fiscal indicators to return to their prepandemic levels. A new generation of rules may thus be called for.

Teresa Molina: Child Health and Parents’ Economic and Mental Wellbeing

The Long Run Impacts of Child Health on Parents’ Economic and Mental Wellbeing

09/15/22 4:15-5pm

Class of 1960 Lecture

How do parents contend with threats to the health and survival of their children? Can the social safety net mitigate negative economic effects through transfers to affected families? We study these questions by combining the universe of cancer diagnoses among Danish children with register data for affected and matched unaffected families. Parental income declines substantially for 3-4 years following a child’s cancer diagnosis. Fathers’ incomes recover fully, but mothers’ incomes remain 3% lower 12 years after diagnosis. Both parents substantially increase use of mental health care services. Fertility increases, particularly among families in which the child did not survive the cancer. Using variation in the generosity of targeted safety net transfers to affected families, we show that such transfers play a crucial role in smoothing income for these households and, importantly, do not generate work disincentive effects.

Isaac Mbiti: Improving STEM Learning

Improving STEM Learning: Experimental Evidence from Urban Primary Schools in India.

We study the impact of a program that aimed to improve math and science learning in Indian public schools in the city of Pune. The program recruited college students who were majoring in STEM subjects to serve as science and math teaching fellows for the entire academic year. Because the fellows had little to no teaching experience, the program relied on scripted lesson plans to deliver instruction. Relative to regular public school teachers, teaching fellows had higher scores on written assessments of instruction, understanding of student errors, and content knowledge. However, both types of instructors had similar absence rates and other measures of effort. At the end of the school year, students who were randomly assigned to a fellow performed .27-.35 SD better than control peers in math, .17-.20 SD in science. In addition, we find evidence of positive spillovers to language learning. The improvements in math and science persisted through the summer break; students in the treatment group performed .29-.34 SD better in math and .08-.10 SD better in science at the beginning of the following year. Despite these gains, the program did not improve student attitudes towards math and science or alter their plans to pursue these subjects in secondary school, higher education, or careers.

Photo of Isaac Mbiti

Neal Rappaport: From Taliban to Taliban

From the Taliban to the Taliban…How did 20 years in Afghanistan end in chaos?

Abstract TBD

Photo of Neal Rappaport