All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
A Literary Theory of Games and Economic Behavior by William Shakespeare, Journal of Political Economy, 122(4), back cover quote suggested by Kweku Opoku-Agyemang (2014).
- Political Economy
- Industrial Organization
- Behavioral Economics and Economics of Information
- Econometrics, Statistics and Data Science
- Technological Change and Human-Computer Interaction
Does Raising Police Salaries Lower Petty Corruption? A Policy Experiment on West African Highways (with Jeremy Foltz). [International Growth Centre Working Paper]. London School of Economics Connect Magazine, Seeker: A Discovery Digital Network, Seeker Daily, The Economist, Cherokee Gothic: Development.Growth.Macro, World Bank Africa Can End Poverty Blog, African Development Bank Evaluation Matters: Impact Evaluation Insights from Practitioners
We evaluate one of the most ambitious salary structure reforms in Africa, finding that raising police salaries worsened petty corruption. Read More
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.
Encountering Poverty: Thinking and Acting in an Unequal World (by Ananya Roy, Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales, Kweku Opoku-Agyemang and Clare Talwalker). University of California Press, 2016.
A novel approach to empower the next generation of policy makers to face global poverty and inequality. Read More
Thinking about and acting against global poverty and inequality with rigorous and critical thinking at the frontier of research.
Modeling Poverty (in Encountering Poverty: Thinking and Acting in an Unequal World (by Ananya Roy, Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales, Kweku Opoku-Agyemang and Clare Talwalker). University of California Press, 2016.
The economics of impact evaluation for a new generation. Read More
A new synergy of economic modeling and program evaluation in understanding poverty and development in the new millennium.
Narcissism Over Ideology: Revealed versus Stated Terrorist Preferences [SSRN Working Paper] [SocArXiv Preprint] BookForum This Week in Africa Weekly Bulletin
Original version: March 2015.
“Bluff is no substitute for bullets” – Wole Soyinka. Read More
What preferences motivate the severity of terrorist attacks? I investigate how some terrorists adjust their fatalities when unexpectedly deprived of public attention, relative to other terrorists that are 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
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.
Transparency both reforms and benefits the credit card industry. Read More
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.
Priming human-computer interactions: Experimental evidence from economic development mobile surveys [SSRN Working Paper] [PsyArXiv Preprint] [SocArXiv Preprint] African Development Bank, UC Berkeley News Media, Blum Center, California Magazine, BORGEN Magazine
Original Version: January 2014
How can people be encouraged to discuss controversial but worthwhile subjects?Read More
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.
Mobilizing the Social Sciences to Fight Global Poverty [Authorea]
Original Version: January 2016
After changing poverty and development, mobile phones are poised to transform behavioral and social science themselves. Read More
Many development projects fail to help the poor in Africa and better data is needed. Mobile innovations can facilitate data collection and research in the social sciences to better understand and fight poverty. Mobile surveys can help researchers and policy makers gain regular and accurate information that better represents the perspective of the poor, although they cannot be a silver bullet. Scientists may ultimately be empowered by technology to perform scientific data analytics on their phones or via virtual interfaces in the future, which may open new frontiers and make science more inclusive
A human-computer interaction approach for integrity in economics [SocArXiv Preprint]
Original Version: August 2016
Economists themselves suffer from self-control problems. Innovative software can serve as a sort of commitment device. Read More
Emerging data science platforms using simplified and automated user interfaces can help research become significantly more transparent and ethical. By depending on standard human-generated code, many statistical software programs commonly used in economics and the social sciences inadvertently rely on the human willpower of scientists, and inspite of an assumed invincibility, such individuals are nearly necessarily prone to errors and research integrity compromises, as is increasingly clear. Removing the vast majority of arbitrary and subjective data judgments, including the generation of code, from researcher control would free behavioural and social scientists from human limitations. Automating the text annotations that accompany data visualizations in figures and diagrams using emerging natural language processing tools can also free scientists from overconfidence or the temptation to embellish findings. Scientific communities across economics as well as other social science fields should embrace such systems to enhance the integrity and transparency of the next-generation of research.
Behavioral Economics and Economics of Information
Perspective Coordination: Empathy and Information Asymmetries [SocArXiv Preprint]
Original version: October 2016.
A lack of empathy can be a more general explanation for information asymmetries than a lack of information, as current events such as the “fake news” phenomenon and others hint. Read More
Information asymmetries are reinterpreted as fundamentally uncoordinated perspectives or mismatched coordinate systems driven by inadequate empathy. Agents view phenomena through different lenses, using coordinate systems that affect how agents view the same phenomena. Since there is no one correct reference point in the economic environment, information is neither necessary nor sufficient to resolve asymmetries. Information travelling between agents is only understood in terms of its objective meaning if the coordinate system is maintained during the transmission process, which occurs in an equilibrium communication path that is conveniently unique. In this setting, empathy via coordinated perspectives is a general explanation for lessened information asymmetries. I close the paper with simple applications that contextualize the model.
Econometrics, Statistics and Data Science
Real-Time Causal Inference [SSRN Working Paper][SocArXiv Preprint][PsyArXiv Preprint][EngrXiv Preprint]
Original version: March 2014.
Statistical experimentation with real-time data. Read More
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.
Economies of Score [SSRN Working Paper][SocArXiv Preprint]
Original version: March 2016.
An economies of scope and scale to understand the industrial organization of the smartphone-mobile app ecosystem. Read More
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.
Rebuilding trust in the social sciences for policy making. Read More
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.
In-between internal and external validity is a qualitative “central” validity. Read More
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
An approach for experiments with time-inconsistency. Read More
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. Read More
Many computational linguistic analyses are based on correlations that may be spurious, and they may not generalize to distinct contexts. In this paper, we explore the task of identifying causal claims in entirely text-based data. The process entails defining and identifying a qualitatively important cut-off in text data that generates quasi-random implementations. Such cut-offs allow the estimating of treatment effects that are relatively generalizable.
RCTA: Randomized Controlled Text Analysis
A literary approach to statistical causal inference. Read More
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
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
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)
The Power of Social Networks: Experimental Evidence from Farmers in India (with Tapan S. Parikh) (in progress)