Current Research

Working Papers (in progress)

  • “Impact of weather shocks on child stunting: Evidence from a new panel study in Kyrgyzstan (2010-2016)” (with Tilman Brück).

Abstract: While malnutrition rates among children under age of five have been decreasing steadily across the world, stunting remains a significant problem in Central Asia. The causes of stunting are usually linked to poor maternal education and health, household income shocks and poor household nutrition, especially among rural households. Recent academic research also emphasizes the importance of negative shocks experienced by parents and small children in the past on children’s long-term health outcomes. However, these shocks were rarely studied in relation to child health in Central Asia. By combining a rich household panel dataset “Life in Kyrgyzstan” (2010-2016) and weather data from the University of East Anglia, CRUTS (1901-2016), this paper investigates the impact of weather shocks on children’s stunting outcomes. We find that weather shocks that combine both precipitation and temperature (same year and cumulative), have a significant negative impact on stunting. We also find that weather shocks significantly determine household nutrition, measured as household dietary diversity. However, the link between household nutrition and child health is not clear. Other determinants of poor child health are low birth weight and high regional prices.

  • “On the elusive quest for peace: evidence on the impact of a school-based peace-building intervention” (with Tilman Brück, Damir Esenaliev, and Eleonora Nillesen).

Abstract: This paper studies a school-based peace education programme in southern Kyrgyzstan, an.d its impact on promoting interethnic and inter-religious tolerance and understanding among young adolescents in the final grades of secondary school. The intervention comprised 10 schools were randomly selected from a sampling frame of 31 Russian-speaking schools to receive treatment, and an additional 10 schools for control. Using an oversubscription design, we randomized treatment at the individual level. We measure impacts on knowledge, beliefs/attitudes and behavior using a set of survey measures and focus groups discussions, immediately after the end of the training and one year after.We find that the programme had a positive significant impact on such outcomes as trust to strangers and incidence of bullying, with more pronounced effects for boys and ethnic minorities. The treatment students start to feel less at home in Kyrgyzstan and more agree with the statement that “Kyrgyz language should be the only official language”. However, the effects become insignificant when controlling for false positives in multiple hypotheses testing and by using other robustness checks. In sum, our results show a modest impact of the programme on relevant outcomes. This may be due to the intervention being relatively “light” in terms of intensity and duration; the sample size and sample design, or some combination of these aspects. Future interventions and research designs should consider a larger and more heterogeneous sample of schools and testing varying versions of the programme that differ with respect to e.g. duration, intensity, subpopulations, and format.

  • “The Echo of Stalinism: Soviet deportations, Ethnic Diversity and Social Capital in Contemporary Russia”.

Abstract: This paper disputes conventional wisdom that ethnic diversity has a negative impact on economic development. More specifically, it explores the impact of regional ethnic structure on individual social capital as measured by trust, and links ethnic diversity to Soviet history as a way to control for the endogeneity problem. Using individual level data from the Russian Life in Transition Survey (2010), I study the impact of ethnicity on three different types of trust: generalized, interpersonal and institutional. The endogeneity of ethnic diversity is addressed by using Soviet deportations conducted under Joseph Stalin between 1928 and 1953 as an instrumental variable. The first stage results show that regional ethnic structure, measured by the standard Herfindahl index, was strongly influenced by the deportations. In particular, the deportations decreased ethnic fragmentation in the regions of destination by nine percent. Moreover, deportations of Germans from the Volga and Southern regions decreased ethnic diversity in these areas. The first stage results are robust when using other measures of ethnic diversity, such as ethnolinguistic polarization and ethnic fragmentation, computed at different levels of aggregation, and when controlling for Nazi occupation. In the second stage, and contrary to findings in the existing literature, ethnic diversity is insignificant in building social capital in Russia.

  • “An Impact Evaluation of Putin’s Baby Bonus”.

Abstract: Russia stands out as the country with the highest abortion rate and the most rapidly decreasing population. According to the World Bank, the total fertility rate (TFR) – the number of children born to the average woman over her lifetime – was 1.3 in 2006, which is one of lowest in the world. As a response to the poor demographic situation, the Russian government introduced a 10-year generous family planning program in 2007, which is aimed to financially support families with children. The empirical literature shows that policies which aim to influence decisions about family size, can either assist or restrict parents in combining work and family responsibilities, depending on whether the benefits of raising children outweigh the costs. Using individual data from the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey that covers 9 rounds (2003-2011), this paper studies whether the policy reduces the costs of children and raises fertility. The results from the estimations of a standard discrete choice model of female fertility suggest that being eligible for the program has no effect on the fertility behaviour of the target group, i.e. women with one child already born or adopted. Moreover, there is no anticipation effect among women with no children of benefiting from the program in the future if they choose to give birth to the first child in the current period. Finally, there is also no aggregate effect of the policy on any order births. The results suggest that certain modifications to the policy may be necessary in order to achieve the desired goal of “two-baby families”. One suggestion would be to subsidize the maternity and child care allowances paid by the employer which would raise child quality. This could be an improvement on the current modification of increasing lump-sum child grants at the regional level, as this may motivate only low income families to have more children and thus lead to the worsening of child quality.

  • “Does Similarity in Social Traits Breed Connection? Evidence from Lab-in-Field Behavioural Experiments in Burkina Faso”.

Abstract: Economists and sociologists have long documented the existence of connections between individuals based on similarities in socio-demographic characteristics, which in academic literature received the name status homophily. On the contrary, investigation of connections based on values and behavior has received yet less attention in the literature, and particularly, in empirical development economics. Based on unique data on networks and behavior, which we collected in lab-in-field experiments in 68 villages in Burkina Faso, we investigate the existence of value homophily, i.e. connections based on similarities in trust, trustworthiness, risk preferences, patience, altruism, and willingness to donate to the public good. We observe that similarities in social capital and preferences play an important role in building networks. Similarities in the levels of trust and patience are important for building social ties, while individuals with similar risk preferences and patience levels are more likely to build stronger economic ties. We also observe that individuals with different levels of trustworthiness are more likely to build stronger economic ties, suggesting that there may be a fraud or unreliability in economic transactions. Finally, we find strong support for status homophily, which is found to be robust in both economic and social connections.

  • “The geopolitical determinants of present-day African borders” (with Elena Gadjanova).