International Development

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International Development

Experts in health, education, governance, energy and social justice collaborate to learn how different levers of action can impact communities.

Research Spotlight

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Causes of Indonesia’s Forest Fires

New research features a 30,000-village case study of the 2015 fire season on Sumatra and Kalimantan and asks which villages, for a given level of spatial fire risk, are more likely to have fire.
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Fateful Decisions: Choices That Will Shape China's Future

Experts provide a cutting-edge analytic framework for understanding the decisions that will determine China's trajectory.
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Do Immigrants Assimilate More Slowly Today Than in the Past?

Using millions of historical census records and modern birth certificates, new research documents that immigrants assimilated into U.S. society at similar rates in the past and present.

Featured Scholars

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Lisa Blaydes

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
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Lisa Blaydes

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Associate Professor of Political Science
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Ertharin Cousin

Visiting Scholar at the Center on Food Security and the Environment
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Ertharin Cousin

Visiting Scholar at the Center on Food Security and the Environment
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Alberto Díaz-Cayeros

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
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Alberto Díaz-Cayeros

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Affiliated faculty, Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law
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Prashant Loyalka

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
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Prashant Loyalka

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Education

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Publications

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White Paper

Election 2020: Antitrust and Privacy in the Age of Big Tech

Marietje Schaake, Rob Reich
2020

ANTITRUST AND PRIVACY CONCERNS are two of the most high-profile topics on the tech policy agenda. Checks and balances to counteract the power of companies such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook are under consideration in Congress, though a polarized political environment is a hindrance. But a domestic approach to tech policy will be insufficient, as the users of the large American tech companies are predominantly outside the United States.

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Book

Invisible China: How the Urban-Rural Divide Threatens China’s Rise

Scott Rozelle, Natalie Hell
University of Chicago Press , 2020

Book Synopsis:

As the glittering skyline in Shanghai seemingly attests, China has quickly transformed itself from a place of stark poverty into a modern, urban, technologically savvy economic powerhouse. But as Scott Rozelle and Natalie Hell show in Invisible China, the truth is much more complicated and might be a serious cause for concern.

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Journal Article

Correlates of Participation in Community-Based Interventions: Evidence from a Parenting Program in Rural China

Yiwei Qian, Yi Ming Zheng, Sarah-Eve Dill, Scott Rozelle
PLOS One , 2020
A growing body of literature has documented that community-based early childhood development (ECD) interventions can improve child developmental outcomes in vulnerable communities. One critical element of effective community-based programs is consistent program participation. However, little is known about participation in community-based ECD interventions or factors that may affect participation. This paper examines factors linked to program participation within a community-based ECD program serving 819 infants and their caregivers in 50 rural villages in northwestern China. The results find that more than half of families did not regularly attend the ECD program. Both village-level social ties within the program and proximity to the program significantly predict program participation. Increased distance from the program site is linked with decreased individual program participation, while the number of social ties is positively correlated with participation. The average program participation rates among a family’s social ties is also positively correlated with individual participation, indicating strong peer effects. Taken together, our findings suggest that attention should be given to promoting social interactions and reducing geographic barriers among households in order to raise participation in community-based ECD programs.
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Journal Article

Institutions, Implementation, and Program Effectiveness: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation of Computer-Assisted Learning in Rural China

Di Mo, Yu Bai, Yaojiang Shi, Cody Abbey, LInxiu Zhang, Scott Rozelle, Prashant Loyalka
Journal of Development Economics , 2020
There is limited evidence on the degree to which differences in implementation among institutions matter for program effectiveness. To examine this question, we conducted an experiment in rural China in which public schools were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: a computer-assisted learning program (CAL) implemented by a government agency, the same program implemented by an NGO, and a pure control. Results show that compared to the pure control condition and unlike the NGO program, the government program did not improve student achievement. Analyzing impacts along the causal chain, we find that government officials were more likely to substitute CAL for regular instruction (contrary to protocol) and less likely to directly monitor program progress. Correlational analyses suggest that these differences in program implementation were responsible for the lack of impacts.
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Working Paper

The Hidden Cost of Worker Turnover: Attributing Product Reliability to the Turnover of Factory Workers

Ken Moon, Prashant Loyalka, Patrick Bergemann, Joshua Cohen
2020
Product reliability is a key concern for manufacturers. We examine a significant but under-recognized determinant of product reliability: the rate of workers quitting from the product's assembly line, or its worker turnover. While modern manufacturers make extensive efforts to control defects and assure quality worksmanship, some quality variation in the manufactured units may be revealed only after they have been used repeatedly. If this is the case, then the disruptiveness of high turnover may directly lead to product reliability issues. To evaluate this possibility, our study collects four post-production years of field failure data covering nearly fifty million sold units of a premium mobile consumer electronics product. Each device is traced back to the assembly line and week in which it was produced, which allows us to link product reliability to production conditions including assembly lines' worker turnover, workloads, firm learning, and the quality of components. Significant effects manifest in two main ways: (1) In the high-turnover weeks immediately following paydays, eventual field failures are surprisingly 10.2% more common than for devices produced in the lowest-turnover weeks immediately before paydays. Using post-payday as an instrumental variable, we estimate that field failure incidence grows by 0.74-0.79% per 1 percentage increase in weekly turnover. (2) Even in other weeks, assembly lines experiencing higher turnover produce an estimated 2-3% more field failures. We demonstrate that staffing and retaining a stable factory workforce critically underlies product reliability and show the value of connected field data in informing manufacturing operations. Keywords: Data-driven workforce planning, Empirical operations management, Employee turnover, People 
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Working Paper

Dissecting Mechanisms of Financial Crises: Intermediation and Sentiment

Arvind Krishnamurthy, Wenhao Li
SSRN , 2020

We develop a model of financial crises with both a financial amplification mechanism, via frictional intermediation, and a role for sentiment, via time-varying beliefs about an illiquidity state. We confront the model with data on credit spreads, equity prices, credit, and output across the financial crisis cycle. In particular, we ask the model to match data on the frothy pre-crisis behavior of asset markets and credit, the sharp transition to a crisis where asset values fall, disintermediation occurs and output falls, and the post-crisis period characterized by a slow recovery in output.

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Journal Article

Independent Reading in Rural China's Elementary Schools: A Mixed-Methods Analysis

Huan Wang, Hongyu Guan, Hongmei Yi, Emma Seevak, Reid Manheim, Matthew Boswell, Scott Rozelle, Sarah Kotb
International Journal of Educational Development , 2020
Abstract: Independent reading—unassigned reading for personal pleasure—has been shown to be an important driver of reading skills and academic success. Children that commonly read for pleasure exhibit higher academic performance. However, little research has been done on independent reading in rural China, where the education system is charged with schooling tens of millions of students. Many rural students fall behind their urban counterparts in school, with potentially troubling implications for China’s ongoing development. This article explores the prevalence of independent reading and its associations with reading ability and academic performance among rural students. Using a mixed methods approach, we analyze quantitative data from a survey of 13,232 students from 134 rural schools and interviews with students, teachers, principals, and caregivers. We find that independent reading is positively and significantly correlated with reading ability as well as standardized math and Chinese tests scores. Despite such correlations, only 17 percent of students report reading for pleasure for an hour a day. Interview findings suggest that inaccessible bookstores, curriculum constraints, unsupportive home environments, low availability of appealing and level-appropriate books, and insufficient school investment in reading resources may explain the low prevalence of independent reading.
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Journal Article

Intermediation in Mortgage-Backed Securities: The Plantation Business of F.W. Hudig, 1759-1797

Abe de Jong, Tim Kooijmans, Peter Koudijs
SSRN , 2020

Dutch-Caribbean plantations attracted substantial outside funding in the 1760s. This came to an abrupt end after the 1773 credit crisis. We use one banker’s detailed archives to analyze how bankers and investors were initially able to overcome asymmetric information problems, and why the system eventually broke down. Bankers oversaw plantations’ cash flows and placed debt with investors in the form of mortgage-backed securities. Strong growth led to lax screening and an oversupply of credit. After a fall in commodity prices, plantation debts were unsustainable.

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Journal Article

School Quality and Peer Effects: Explaining Differences in Academic Performance between China’s Migrant and Rural Students

Xiaobing Wang, Zhouhang Yuan, Shi Min, Scott Rozelle
The Journal of Development Studies , 2020
In China, parents have a choice to either send their children to private migrant schools in urban areas or to keep them in their own county. It is unclear whether the academic differences of students in rural schools and those in private migrant schools is due to the quality of schools, the quality of students/peers, or the ways that peer effects interact with the quality of the school. Using survey data from students with rural residency who attended either migrant schools or rural public schools, we measure how differences in the quality of the types of schools and how the effect of peers differs in high- versus low-quality schools. An instrumental variable approach is used to identify the causality of a student’s peers on his or her academic outcomes and within the context of each of the school venues. The gap in student academic performance is explained by the differences in each student’s peers as and in how peers interact in the schooling environments. The analysis also demonstrates that there is a significant interaction effect between one’s peers and the quality of a student’s school environment. We found that school quality has a complementary effect with peers on student academic performance.
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Journal Article

Feeling Bad and Doing Bad: Student Confidence in Reading in Rural China

Qiufeng Gao, Huan Wang, Fang Chang, Qi An, Hongmei Yi, Kaleigh Kenny, Yaojiang Shi
Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education , 2020
This article reports on research conducted to investigate student confidence in reading by collecting data from 135 primary schools in rural China. In the survey, we adopted the PIRLS scales of confidence in reading and reading skills test items. Our analysis shows that compared to the other countries and regions, rural China ranks last with regard to student confidence in reading and reading achievement. The correlation analysis reveals that in rural China there is a strong correlation between student confidence in reading and reading achievement. Additionally, school and teacher factors are associated with student confidence in reading. Specifically, having an accessible classroom library is associated with higher reading confidence, especially among the poor readers. Teacher instruction in reading correlates with higher confidence in readers for high achievers. Our findings indicate that the government should develop effective policies to improve student confidence in reading and reading skills in rural China.
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Working Paper

Isolating the "Tech" from EdTech: Experimental Evidence on Computer Assisted Learning in China

Yue Ma, Robert Fairlie, Prashant Loyalka, Scott Rozelle
The National Bureau of Economic Research , 2020
EdTech which includes online education, computer assisted learning (CAL), and remote instruction was expanding rapidly even before the current full-scale substitution for in-person learning at all levels of education around the world because of the coronavirus pandemic. Studies of CAL interventions have consistently found large positive effects, bolstering arguments for the widespread use of EdTech. However CAL programs, often held after school, provide not only computer-based instruction, but often additional non-technology based inputs such as more time on learning and instructional support by facilitators. In this paper, we develop a theoretical model to carefully explore the possible channels by which CAL programs might affect academic outcomes among schoolchildren. We isolate and test the technology-based effects of CAL and additional parameters from the theoretical model, by designing a novel multi-treatment field experiment with more than four thousand schoolchildren in rural China. Although we find evidence of positive overall CAL program effects on academic outcomes, when we isolate the technology-based effect of CAL (over and above traditional pencil-and-paper learning) we generally find small to null effects. Our empirical results suggest that, at times, the “Tech” in EdTech may have relatively small effects on academic outcomes, which has important implications for the continued, rapid expansion of technologies such as CAL throughout the world.
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Journal Article

Do Immigrants Assimilate More Slowly Today Than in the Past?

Ran Abramitzky, Leah Boustan, Katherine Eriksson
American Economic Review: Insights , 2020

Using millions of historical census records and modern birth certificates, we document that immigrants assimilated into US society at similar rates in the past and present. We measure cultural assimilation as immigrants giving their children less foreign names after spending more time in the United States, and show that immigrants erase about one-half of the naming gap with natives after 20 years both historically and today. Immigrants from poorer countries choose more foreign names upon first arrival in both periods but are among the fastest to shift toward native-sounding names.

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Journal Article

Agricultural and Rural Development in China During the Past Four Decades: An Introduction

Jikun Huang, Scott Rozelle, Xinkai Zhu, Shiji Zhao, Yu Sheng
The Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics , 2019
The past four decades have witnessed unprecedented economic growth and rapidly rising food demand in China. This paper provides an introduction to readers with useful information summarising the development of China’s agricultural sector and the transformation of its rural economy over the 40 years of economic reform. It is, however, impossible to cover all aspects of this recent and rich history in a single journal special issue. Nevertheless, we are of the view that these papers address the most fundamentally important and insightful topics including: land reform and rural development; technology progress and productivity growth; changing food consumption patterns; rural education and human capital accumulation; and poverty alleviation.
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Journal Article

The Internet’s Challenge to Democracy: Framing the Problem and Assessing Reforms

Nathaniel Persily, Nathaniel Persily
2019

The Program on Democracy and the Internet runs the work of the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age which will produce guidelines to support democracies, particularly those of the global south. 

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Journal Article

Causes of Indonesia’s forest fires

Rosamond L. Naylor, Ryan Edwards, Matt Higgins, Walter P. Falcon
World Development Journal , 2019

The economic costs of Indonesia’s 2015 forest fires are estimated to exceed US $16 billion, with more than 100,000 premature deaths. On several days the fires emitted more carbon dioxide than the entire United States economy. Here, we combine detailed geospatial data on fire and local climatic conditions with rich administrative data to assess the underlying causes of Indonesia’s forest fires at district and village scales. We find that El Niño events explain most of the year-on-year variation in fire.

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Conference Memos

The Future of Food from the Sea

Rosamond L. Naylor
High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy , 2019

As the global population and people’s incomes rise, the demand for ocean-derived food will continue to grow. At the same time, hunger and malnutrition continues to be a challenge in many countries, particularly in rural or developing areas. Looking to the ocean as a source of protein produced using low-carbon methodologies will be critical for food security, nutrition and economic stability, especially in coastal countries where hunger and malnutrition are a challenge.

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Journal Article

Can School Feeding Programs Reduce Malnutrition in Rural China?

Huan Wang, Qiran Zhao, Matthew Boswell, Scott Rozelle
Journal of School Health , 2019
BACKGROUND
Childhood malnutrition is commonplace among poor rural communities in China. In 2012, China launched its first nationwide school‐feeding program (SFP) to address this problem. This study examines the prevalence of malnutrition before and after the SFP and identifies possible reasons for the trends observed.
 
METHODS
Ordinary least squares regression and propensity score matching were used to analyze data from 2 cross‐sectional surveys of 100 rural primary schools in northwestern China. Participants were fourth‐and fifth‐grade students. Outcome measures include anemia rates, hemoglobin levels, body mass index, and height for age Z scores.
 
RESULTS
Three years after implementation of the SFP, malnutrition rates among sample students had not fallen. The SFP had no statistically significant effect on either anemia rates or BMI, but was linked to an increase in the proportion of students with below normal height for age Z scores. Meals provided to students fell far short of national recommendations that the SPF should provide 40% of the recommended daily allowance of micronutrients.
 
CONCLUSIONS
Despite significant budgetary outlays between 2012 and 2015, China's SFP has not reduced the prevalence of malnutrition among sample students. To make the SFP more effective, funding and human resources both need to be increased.
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Journal Article

Eyes in the Sky, Boots on the Ground: Assessing Satellite- and Ground-Based Approaches to Crop Yield Measurement and Analysis

David Lobell, Marshall Burke, George Azzari, Sydney Gourlay, Zhenong Jin, Talip Kilic, Siobhan Murray
American Journal of Agricultural Economics , 2019

Understanding the determinants of agricultural productivity requires accurate measurement of crop output and yield. In smallholder production systems across low- and middle-income countries, crop yields have traditionally been assessed based on farmer-reported production and land areas in household/farm surveys, occasionally by objective crop cuts for a sub-section of a farmer’s plot, and rarely using full-plot harvests. In parallel, satellite data continue to improve in terms of spatial, temporal, and spectral resolution needed to discern performance on smallholder plots.

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Working Paper

EdTech for Equity in China: Can Technology Improve Teaching for Millions of Rural Students?

Cody Abbey, Yue Ma, Guirong Li, Matthew Boswell, Claire Cheng, Robert Fairlie, Oliver Lee, Prashant Loyalka, Andrew Mi, Evan Peng, Scott Rozelle, Adrian Sun, Andy Zeng, Jenny Zhao
2019

Previous literature suggests subpar teaching is a primary reason why rural Chinese students lag behind academically. We initiate an investigation into the potential of educational technology (EdTech) to increase teaching quality in rural China. First, we discuss why conventional approaches of improving teaching in remote schools are infeasible in China’s context, referring to past research. We then explore the capacity of technology-assisted instruction to improve academic performance by examining previous empirical analyses. Third, we show that China is not limited by the resource constraints of other developing countries due to substantial policy support and a thriving EdTech industry. Finally, we identify potential implementation-related challenges based on the results of a preliminary qualitative survey of pilots of EdTech interventions. With this paper, we lay the foundation for a long-term research investigation into whether EdTech can narrow China’s education gap.

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Journal Article

The Prevalence of Parent-Teacher Interaction in Developing Countries and its Effect on Student Outcomes

Guirong Li, Millie Lin, Chengfang Liu, Angela Johnson, Yanyan Li, Prashant Loyalka
Teaching and Teacher Education , 2019

Empirical evidence from developed countries supports the idea that parent-teacher interaction is highand improves student outcomes. The evidence from developing countries is, however, decidedly mixed.Using longitudinal data from nearly 6000 students and their 600 teachers in rural China, we show theprevalence of parent-teacher interaction is generally much lower than that of developed countries. Wealso show parent-teacher interaction, when it exists, can have positive effects on raising academicachievement and reducing learning anxiety. We demonstrate that the prevalence and effectiveness ofparent-teacher interaction in a developing country context varies considerably due to both demand-sideand supply-side factors.

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Journal Article

Stuck in Place? A Field Experiment on the Effects of Reputational Information on Student Evaluations

James Chu, Guirong Li, Prashant Loyalka, Chengfang Liu, Leonardo Rosa, Yanyan Li
Oxford Academic , 2019

Studies suggest that students’ prior performance can shape subsequent teacher evaluations, but the magnitude of reputational effects and their implications for educational inequality remain unclear. Existing scholarship presents two major perspectives that exist in tension: do teachers primarily use reputational information as a temporary signal that is subsequently updated in response to actual student performance? Or do teachers primarily use reputational information as a filter that biases perception of subsequent evidence, thus crystallizing student reputations and keeping previously poor-performing students stuck in place? In a field experiment, we recruited a random sample of 832 junior high school teachers from the second-most populous province of China to grade a sequence of four essays written by the same student, and we randomly assign both the academic reputation of the student and the quality of the essays produced. We find that (1) reputational information influences how teachers grade, (2) teachers rely on negative information more heavily than positive information, and (3) negative reputations are crystallized by a single behavioral confirmation. These results suggest that students can escape their prior reputations, but to do so, they must contradict them immediately, with a single confirmation sufficient to crystallize a negative reputation.

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Journal Article

Does Teacher Training Actually Work? Evidence from a Large-Scare Randomized Evaluation of a National Teacher Training Program

Prashant Loyalka, Anna Popova, Guirong Li, Zhaolei Shi
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics , 2019
Despite massive investments in teacher professional development (PD) programs in developing countries, there is little evidence on their effectiveness. We present results of a large-scale, randomized evaluation of a national PD program in China in which teachers were randomized to receive PD; PD plus follow-up; PD plus evaluation of the command of PD content; or no PD. Precise estimates indicate PD and associated interventions failed to improve teacher and student outcomes after one year. A detailed analysis of the causal chain shows teachers find PD content to be overly theoretical, and PD delivery too rote and passive, to be useful.
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Journal Article

The Impact of Teacher Professional Development Programs on Student Achievement in Rural China: Evidence from Shaanxi Province

Meichen Lu, Prashant Loyalka, Yaojiang Shi, Fang Chang, Chengfang Liu, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Development Effectiveness , 2019

There is a significant gap in academic achievement between rural and urban students in China. Policymakers have sought to close this gap by improving the quality of teaching in rural areas through teacher professional development (PD) programs. However, there is limited evidence on the effectiveness of such programs. In this paper, we evaluate the impact of a PD program-National Teacher Training Program (NTTP)  and find that the NTTP has no effect on math achievement. We also find that while the program has a positive effect on math teaching knowledge of teachers, it has no significant effect on teaching practices in the classroom. Taken together, these results indicate that teachers may have improved their knowledge for teaching from NTTP, but did not apply what they learned to improve teaching practices or student learning.

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Journal Article

Integrating satellite and climate data to predict wheat yield in Australia using machine learning approaches

Yaping Cai, Kaiyu Guan, David Lobell, Andries B.Potgieter, Shaowen Wanga, Jian Peng, Tianfang Xu, Senthold Assen, Yongguang Zhang, Liangzhi You, Bin Peng
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology , 2019

Wheat is the most important staple crop grown in Australia, and Australia is one of the top wheat exporting countries globally. Timely and reliable wheat yield prediction in Australia is important for regional and global food security. Prior studies use either climate data, or satellite data, or a combination of these two to build empirical models to predict crop yield. However, though the performance of yield prediction using empirical methods is improved by combining the use of climate and satellite data, the contributions from different data sources are still not clear.

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Journal Article

Better Cognition, Better School Performance? Evidence from Primary Schools in China

Qiran Zhao, Xiaobing Wang, Scott Rozelle
China Economic Review , 2019

Although students in rural and migrant schools in China generally have not performed well, a share of each cohort has been able to thrive in school and to test into academic high school and college. To understand the origins of persistence, specifically, why some students learn more than do others, researchers have identified certain sources of the problem. Few studies, however, have paid attention to the role that low levels of cognitive development of students play in their academic performance.

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