Here's a list of some of the topics I have worked on in the last 10 years. Content includes working and published academic papers, blog posts and reports.

FAIR TRADE

Fair Trade is probably the most popular ethical label. You may have seen the round blue and green logo on lots of products: coffee, bananas, tea, and maybe even sports balls. The goal of the label is to improve the lives of the poor in developing countries by offering better trading terms to producers and helping them to organize. In exchange, to obtain the Fair Trade certification, farmers need to adhere to a list of environmental and labor standards.

Although Fair Trade-certified products still comprise a small share of the market, growth has been very rapid over the past decade. In 2014 alone, world sales of Fair Trade products were more than $6.5 billion and around 1.5 million farmers were part of a Fair Trade organization. My research with Nathan Nunn asks whether Fair Trade actually works in delivering on its promise of alleviating poverty and building institutions. 

The Impacts of Fair Trade Certification: Evidence from Coffee Producers in Costa Rica (with Nathan Nunn). Working paper.

In this paper, we estimate the effects of Fair Trade (FT) certification on coffee producers in Costa Rica and find that  FT certification is associated with higher export prices, equal to approximately 4 cents per pound. Linking the producer-level information on FT certification to individual-level survey data, we find that FT certification increases income, but only for skilled coffee growers and farm owners. We find no evidence that many workers, including unskilled seasonal coffee pickers, benefit from certification.

Data sources:

The Economics of Fair Trade (with Nathan Nunn and Daniele Giovannucci)

We provide an overview of the primary requirements of Fair Trade, as well as the potential benefits and pitfalls from a theoretical and practical point of view. We also discuss the empirical evidence for whether Fair Trade is successful in accomplishing its goals of helping lift Fair Trade certified farmers out of poverty, providing stability, and encouraging farmers to engage in environmentally-responsible production.

GLOBALIZATION AND GENDER EQUALITY

The Gender Effects of Exporting: Female Factory Work and Siblings’ Education in Cambodia (Working Paper)

As a result of increased market access to the United States, Cambodia has witnessed a remarkable growth in its apparel exports, from 4 million in 1996 to close to 4 billion in 2013. Apparel is by far the most important export industry in Cambodia, accounting for more than 80 percent of its exports.

The expansion of the apparel industry resulted in a significant rise in job opportunities for women. Employment in export garment factories grew from 19,000 workers in 1996 to close to half a million in 2013 , according to the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia.  More than 80 percent of workers are young women who migrate from rural areas to Phnom Penh, where the garment export cluster is located. 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a large share of factory wages earned by women go towards supporting siblings' education. Using individual survey data I showed that the female siblings of female garment workers who were induced to work in garment exporting sector by their proximity to the exports factories are one standard deviation more likely to attend school relative to their male siblings. The results are consistent with two channels, which are challenging to disentangle in the current setting. By increasing female-specific income garment jobs may increase older daughter’s bargaining power within the household. If older female siblings have a higher preference for investing in their sisters relative to their brothers, then this would lead to an increase the investment in education for girls. The second channel is that a member working in a job in an export factory raises total household income and this should increase investments in education for girls, if girls education is a 'luxury' good relative to boys’ education. 

Data sources: 

GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS

Firm-to-Firm Matching Along the Global Supply Chain. Evidence from US - India Trade (Working Paper)

Every year, US firms engage in import transactions with more than 1 million firms from around the world. Together, these transactions span more than 1.5 million pairs of buyer-supplier relationships. These numbers have grown sharply over the last 20 years. Falling trade costs and improved supply chain management technology have led US firms to outsource parts of the production chain to developing countries. Firms in these countries now perform tasks at many different stages along the global supply chain from the production of basic inputs to complex assembly of parts and manufacturing of final goods. 

Although the matching between buyers and suppliers plays an important role in international transactions, our understanding of this matching process remains limited. In large part, this is because data that allows us to observe detailed information about firms on both sides is not easily available.

Do the best US companies work with the best suppliers for a given product? Does this matching process look different when US companies purchase final goods such as t-shirts and when they purchase an intermediate good such as yarn? 

To answer this question I applied to become a Special-Sworn Status researcher with the US Census and get access to a confidential dataset containing the details of all import transactions that US firms engage in. Adding additional data sources, I created a new dataset which allows us to observe detailed characteristics of US buyers and their overseas suppliers in India.

I found that high-performing US buyers also have high-performing Indian suppliers, with performance measured by firm size. But this is the case only when US firms purchase final goods, such as consumer products. When they buy intermediates (primarily those used in the production of other intermediates), high-performing US buyers work with both high- and low-performing suppliers. 

Economic theory offers a potential explanation for the patterns we see in the data. When US firms purchase final goods (such as t-shirts) they find it optimal to spend relatively more resources on searching for the best suppliers than when they are looking to purchase intermediates (such as the cotton or the yarn to make the t-shirt). That's because if suppliers assigned to the final stages of production end up making mistakes they destroy a larger amount of value than those suppliers in charge of the earlier stages of production. There is a second force at play here. For a given stage of production high-performing buyers will spend even more resources than low-performing buyers finding the best suppliers. This leads to an equilibrium in which firms sort by their performance when they purchase final goods. High (low)-performing buyers end up working with high (low)-performing suppliers. For intermediates, the amount of resources that buyers spend on finding suppliers is much lower so US firms end up working with low and high performing suppliers irrespective of their own performance. 

Data sources:

IMPACT INVESTING

Social Finance, Inc. (with Shawn Cole, Rawia Sami Abdel Samad and Matthew John Berner), Harvard Business School Case 212-055

  • Social Finance attempts to design and launch a complex new financial instrument (the pay-for-success bond) that will entice private capital to invest in social service provision.

CIVIC ANALYTICS

(Blog posts I wrote using public data while I was working as a data scientist at Enigma)

On Wages and Hygiene: Surfacing Bad Management in Public Data (with Leo Bouloc), July 30 2015

Looking for Smoke Alarms in New Orleans (with Mike Flowers), April 6 2015

Knowing NYC through the H-1BMarch 27, 2015

Trade and the Goat (Ram, Sheep)February 23, 2015

GLOBAL ECONOMICS 

(Selected work I've done as part of the Goldman Sachs's Global Economics and Strategy team. Most of this work is not public, so when there's no link, I can email you the pdf)

The Expanding Middle: The Exploding World Middle Class and Falling Global Inequality (with Dominic Wilson), Goldman Sachs Global Economics Paper No:170, July 7, 2008

Building the World: Mapping Infrastructure Demand (with Sandra Lawson), Goldman Sachs Global Economics Paper No:166, April 24, 2008 

Building on a Decade of Progress: Our 2007 Growth Environment Scores (with Dominic Wilson),Goldman Sachs Global Economics Paper No:163, December 14, 2007 

The US Housing Bust in International Perspective (with Dominic Wilson), Goldman Sachs Global Economics Weekly 08/14, April 16, 2008

Volatility - Resetting to a Higher Level (with Dominic Wilson),Goldman Sachs Global Economics Weekly 07/30, September 12, 2007

Revamping the GS Surprise Index (with Ed McKelvey), Goldman Sachs US Economics Analyst 07/05, February 2, 2007