Research

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players.

A Literary Theory of Games and Economic Behavior by William ShakespeareJournal of Political Economy, 122(4), back cover quote suggested by Kweku Opoku-Agyemang (2014).

Research Interests
  • Human-Computer Interaction and Research Transparency
  • Political Economy and Behavioral Economics
  • Industrial Organization
  • Economics of Information
  • Econometrics, Statistics and Data Science
Publications

Scaling Up Peer Education with Farmers in India (2017). [first author] (with Bhaumik Shah and Tapan S. Parikh). Proceedings of the Ninth IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information Technologies and Communication for Development (ICTD ’17), 15: 1-15. November 16-19, Lahore, Pakistan. Association of Computing Machinery/Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. 

Human-Computer Interactions with Behavioral Science  (2017). revised and resubmitted, Behavioral Scientist. 

Encountering Poverty: Thinking and Acting in an Unequal World (2016). (with Ananya Roy, Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales, and Clare Talwalker). University of California Press.

Mobilizing Impact Evaluations: Mobile Survey Micro-Experiments for Sustainable Development (2015). Evaluation Matters, (3rd Quarter), 24-29. in Emerging Solutions to Development Challenges, Volume 1. African Development Bank Group.

Working Papers
Human-Computer Interaction and research transparency

Schadenfreude and Research Transparency: Identifying and Overcoming Petty Corruption in Failed Replications (2017).  An Urgency for Evidence and Transparency in Economic Analysis and Policy Conference 2017, Association for Integrity and Responsible Leadership in Economics and Associated Professions (AIRLEAP)  Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences Blog

Development Lunch Seminar, December 12, 2017, UC Berkeley

I analyze replicators as experiencing psychological shortcomings while replicating an original study due to schadenfreude impulses—petty, involuntary pleasures derived from observing published authors fail, that manifests in corrupted replications. In the paper, I characterize replicators’ results as a network graph of data analyses at the level of human-computer interactions that contain behavioral graph copies whenever the replicator manifests corrupt schadenfreude impulses and resorts to data hacking or mining. The opaqueness inherently associated with offline replications implies that the data downloading leads to succumbing to schadenfreude in replication decision graphs. I propose that published journal data be only analyzable via a novel cloud-based platform that disallows downloading. Other opportunities for schadenfreude are addressed with the platform’s feature of trusted timestamping, which records, timestamps and shares all replication queries and results in the background during replications in real-time, credibly committing replicators to overcome any schadenfreude impulses. Trusted timestamping also enables what I call credible exploration in preanalysis plans during replications, allowing a continuum between exploratory and credible hypotheses to be realized.  Borrowing recent tools from pure mathematics and computer science, the most objectively ethical and transparent elements of replications credibly emerge. Specification searches and other corrupt behavior are cleanly identified as well under assumptions that capture the unique nature of empirical economic impact evaluation research. Focusing on psychological shortcomings can help transparency become a social norm in the economics profession.

Using Blockchain for Scientific Transparency  (2017). [Working Paper] [SocArXiv Preprint][SSRN Working Paper

Trusted timestamping can help make social science research more transparent.

Taking the “Artifice” out of Artificial Intelligence  (2017).  under review.

Take the “con” out of econometrics, but for artificial intelligence. 

Behavioral Economists, Human-Computer Interactions and Research Transparency (2017).  [Working Paper][SocArXiv Preprint] [SSRN Working Paper

A commitment device for economists that place more weight on transparency in the present than they do in the future.

Political Economy and behavioral economics

Does Raising Police Salaries Lower Petty Corruption? A Policy Experiment on West African Highways (with Jeremy Foltz). [Job Market Paper] [International Growth Centre Working Paper].  London School of Economics Connect Magazine, Seeker: A Discovery Digital Network, Seeker Daily, The EconomistCherokee Gothic: Development.Growth.Macro, World Bank Africa Can End Poverty Blog, African Development Bank Evaluation Matters: Impact Evaluation Insights from Practitioners 

In one of the most ambitious public sector reform experiments in Africa, the Ghana government doubled its police officer salaries in 2010 in part to mitigate petty corruption on its roads, while leaving salaries for other officials unchanged. Neighboring countries in the West African region left their police salaries unchanged. Using unique data on bribes paid from over 2,100 truck trips in West Africa and representing over 45,000 bribe opportunities, we evaluate impacts of higher police salaries on petty corruption using a difference-in-difference method that exploits the exogenous policy experiment. By following bribes paid by the same trucks in different countries as well as to different civil servants in Ghana we identify whether salaries affect the effort to seek bribes, their value and the total amount paid by truckers. Rather than decrease petty corruption, the salary policy significantly increased the police efforts to collect bribes, the value of bribes and the amounts given to truck drivers to policemen in total. Robustness checks show the higher bribe efforts and amounts are stable across alternative specifications.

Does Opening Complaints Data Change Company and Consumer Behavior? Evidence from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau [SSRN Working Paper] [SocArXiv Preprint]

Original version: January 2014.

I analyze a technological change which improved the public monitoring of financial customer treatment. This major assessment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is based on its exposing all US credit card complaints online while keeping mortgage-related complaints concealed. Exposed companies were more likely to close complaint files while providing explanations and relief to aggrieved consumers and in a timely manner. The transparency policy seems uncompromised by economic inequality. Consumers procrastinate in reporting exposed banks while rewarding exposed banks for their improved behavior with new accounts. Debt remained relatively stable. Surprisingly, both consumers and banks benefit when offending banks are exposed online.

Narcissism over Ideology: Revealed versus Stated Terrorist Preferences [SSRN Working Paper] [SocArXiv Preprint]

Original submitted version: November 2016

What preferences motivate the severity of terrorist attacks? I investigate how Boko Haram terrorists adjust their fatalities when unexpectedly deprived of public attention, relative to Al Shabaab terrorists, that were not deprived of public attention. Losing public attention raises the severity of terrorism: Boko Haram terrorist fatalities surged following the rebasing of Nigeria’s economy, which catapulted the country into Africa’s largest and the top twenty-five worldwide. The largest spike in Boko Haram terrorist fatalities occurred in the wake of the Nigerian Ebola health crisis. Although Boko Haram claims an anti-education sentiment, their fatalities do not actually differ significantly from Al Shabaab fatalities during the Nigerian national basic education examination. Overall, terrorists consider well-being changes as threats that have more validity than the persuasiveness of their own claimed ideologies. The results are robust to acknowledging other conflict actors in Nigeria and Somalia that have distinct motivations. Terrorist groups do not significantly vary the severity of their attacks during Ramadan. Given extremists’ vulnerable self-concepts, emphasizing revealed relative preferences may undermine terrorist credibility and recruitment.

Social Science Can Develop Startups for Development [SocArXiv Preprint

Like the mobile phone revolution before it, startups in developing economies are taking scholarship by surprise. Social science can help unpack the next-generation of economic development in Africa

Economics of Information

Empathy as a Topological Data Experiment  [Working Paper][SSRN Working Paper]

Original version: October 2016 (previous title: “Perspective Coordination: Empathy and Information Asymmetries) [SocArXiv Preprint]

 I introduce and solve a class of information asymmetries problems in which agents have uncoordinated perspectives of objective information. I first present a primitive of literal perspective frames: coordinate systems through which agents view phenomena based on their individualized and unique experiences. In the model, the transformation of coordinate systems from one perspective to another represents empathy. Changing perspective frames as described resembles conducting experiments, but on topological data. I extend topological data analysis to randomized controlled trials by introducing the existence and estimation of average treatment effects in topological data environments. The settings imply that being embedded in significantly varying topology is a unique reason why different individuals might update beliefs differently when faced with an identical statistical experiment. For similar topological reasons, the provided average treatment effects may not be externally valid when other metrics and computational topological environments are analyzed. Collectively, the findings have implications for behavioral aspects of experimentation and research transparency issues. 

Econometrics, Statistics and Data Science

Real-Time Causal Inference [SSRN Working Paper][SocArXiv Preprint][PsyArXiv Preprint][EngrXiv Preprint]

Original version: March 2014. 

The paper highlights several areas on statistical measurement and causal inference in common real-time data environments. Treatment effects under real-time randomization within data streams are found estimable using controlled and natural experiments motivated by real-time regression analyses. A bias occurs as a result of ignoring concept drift when classical regression statistics are naïvely applied to real-time experimental data. An algorithm performs difference-in-difference estimation for real-time program evaluations. A new Problem of Causal Inference is introduced for real-time data environments. The paper closes with brief implications.

Industrial Organization

Economies of Score [SSRN Working Paper][SocArXiv Preprint]

Original version: March 2016. 

To introduce a novel generalization of economies of scope, the paper develops a theory of average cost reductions based on enabling products to have multiple features or functions. The process is labelled economies of score. Focusing production costs on the finer detail of product features can lead to more significant average cost reductions relative to standard economies of scope and scale. The embedding of secondary features into a product with a primary feature is a network graph represented with a binary decision diagram to model product feature integration for each product within a firm. A feature equilibrium is defined. Some evidence suggests that the approach is relevant for describing smartphone-app industrial organization.

Research Papers in progress

 

Rebuilding Trust in the Social Sciences with Empathy. Profile in Fall 2014 Blum Center for Developing Economies Newsletter

Original Version: September 2014

Exposing the engaging and non-superficial discussions of scholarship currently limited to departmental workshop presentations or academic conferences to the public would promote transparency, as well as engagement, trust and even respect for academic professions. 

Central Validity and Feasibility Inference

Development Impact Lab 2016 State of the Science Conference, University of California, Berkeley.

The paper focuses on external validity in practice: anticipating the degree to which consequent related treatments would be feasible in new contexts.

Time-Inconsistency and Randomized Controlled Trials 

I introduce a general randomized controlled trial approach where study participants have time-inconsistent preferences that significantly affect selection into randomized treatment groups. I show how preferences are manipulated to become more consistent over time, so that an agent places increasing weights on the present relative to the future. By acknowledging and correcting for time-inconsistency and related self-control problems, the proposed trials generate clearer information than standard randomized and selective trials. The laws of large numbers are compromised by significantly time-inconsistent environments. To minimize this issue, I introduce behavioral laws of large numbers.  I close with various policy implications.

Computational Linguistic Causal Inference: A Natural Language Processing Discontinuity Design Approach

Introducing natural language processing work to statistical causal inference using regression discontinuity designs. 

Filtering Causal Impacts from Remote Sensing: Topological Program Evaluations

The behavioral economics of computer-supported cooperative work

RCTA: Randomized Controlled Text Analysis

I introduce a randomized controlled trial approach generalized to the humanities. I show how causal inference can be gained via applications of causality to text analysis in a general model that reconciles causal and textual inference I call contextual inference.

The Unequal Economics of the Undead: Evidence from 2.6 Terabytes of Leaktivism

Entrepreneurship and Growth

Economic Vegetarianism

The Computer Science of Kente: Cloth Weaving as Programming Language

Information Technology and the Global Fight Against Health Poverty (in progress)

Mobile Money Spillovers: Evidence from Kenya (in progress)

State Capacity Adoption: Experimental Evidence from Mobile Innovation (in progress)

(A)moral Hazard: Evidence from Mobile Health (in progress) 

Policy makers are hopeful that mobile health  can improve health outcomes in developing countries. I find evidence of a unique form of moral hazard with respect to mobile health technologies.

Pipe Dreams? Dilemmas from Ghana’s Oil (in progress)

Trade Impacts in China (in progress)

Information Asymmetries, Savings and Credit (with Jeremy Foltz).

Gender Bias in Informal Financial Institutions: Evidence from Susu Collection in Ghana (with Jeremy Foltz).

Empowering women can lessen gender bias in deposit collection.

Low-Intensity Conflict and Schooling Outcomes: Evidence from Uganda (with Jeremy Foltz)

A Self-Control Agency Conflict

Priming human-computer interactions: Experimental evidence from economic development mobile surveys [SSRN Working Paper] [PsyArXiv Preprint] [SocArXiv Preprint]  African Development BankUC Berkeley News Media, Blum Center, California Magazine, BORGEN Magazine

How can people be encouraged to discuss controversial but worthwhile subjects? Randomized controlled trials based on human-computer interactions provide a novel mechanism for quantifying how attracted people feel to their localized preferences for governance, sanitation, health and related international development issues.

Diet and Behavior in Northern Ghana (in progress)

Bandwagons: Theory and Evidence (in progress)

Case Studies and Policy Projects

CellScope: A Development Engineering Case Study (2014) (with Syed Imran Ali, Frankie Myers, Clay Ruben and Daniel Fletcher) 

The Rural Electric Power Project: A Development Engineering Case Study (2014) (with Matt Podolsky, Temina Madon, Carson Christiano, Ken Lee, Javier Rosa, Syed Imran Ali, Eric Brewer, Catherine Wolfram, and Edward Miguel)

Evaluating Impacts in a Complex World (with Samir Doshi) (in progress)

A Human-Computer Interactions Approach for Research Transparency [SocArXiv Preprint]

Smartphones for Smart Policy: Mobilizing the Social Sciences to Fight Global Poverty [Authorea]