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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Journal Article

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

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, 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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Journal Article

Global warming has increased global economic inequality

Noah Diffenbaugh, Marshall Burke
Proceedings of the national Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 2019

Understanding the causes of economic inequality is critical for achieving equitable economic development. To investigate whether global warming has affected the recent evolution of inequality, we combine counterfactual historical temperature trajectories from a suite of global climate models with extensively replicated empirical evidence of the relationship between historical temperature fluctuations and economic growth. Together, these allow us to generate probabilistic country-level estimates of the influence of anthropogenic climate forcing on historical economic output.

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Journal Article

Past Successes and Future Challenges in Rural China’s Human Capital

Yu Bai, Siqi Zhang, Lei Wang, Ruirui Dang, Cody Abbey, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Contemporary China , 2019

This paper describes the current level of human capital in China and seeks to identify a number of education-related challenges that may slow down the nation’s economy from transitioning to high-income status. Relying on recent census-based data from OECD for the rest of the world and using data from the 2015 Micro-Census for China, the authors show that the low levels of education of China’s labour force is really a problem that has its roots in the past (in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s). In recent years (since 2000), China has been investing heavily in education as shown by the increasing the share of youth, including rural youth, attending high school. Despite this recent effort to raise the nation’s human capital, the education system still faces several challenges in trying to provide high-quality education for all youth. First, the government must figure out a way to overcome the relatively low rates of participation in high school by rural students. Second, there is concern that many vocational schools, especially those in rural areas, cannot deliver quality education. Finally, the paper will show that many rural students may be unprepared due to poor early childhood development outcomes.

 

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Journal Article

Computer Science Skills Across China, India, Russia, and the United States

Prashant Loyalka, Ou Lydina Liu, Guirong Li, Igor Chirikov, Elena Kardanova, Lin Gu, Guangming Ling, Ningning Yu, Fei Guo, Liping Ma, Shangfeng Hu, Angela Sun Johnson, Ashutosh Bhuradia, Saurabh Khanna, Isak Froumin, Jinghuan Shi, Pradeep Kumar Choudhury, Tara Beteille, Francisco Marmolejo, Namrata Tognatta
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 2019

We assess and compare computer science skills among final-year computer science undergraduates (seniors) in four major economic and political powers that produce approximately half of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates in the world. We find that seniors in the United States substantially outperform seniors in China, India, and Russia by 0.76–0.88 SDs and score comparably with seniors in elite institutions in these countries. Seniors in elite institutions in the United States further outperform seniors in elite institutions in China, India, and Russia by ∼0.85 SDs. The skills advantage of the United States is not because it has a large proportion of high-scoring international students. Finally, males score consistently but only moderately higher (0.16–0.41 SDs) than females within all four countries.

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Case Studies

Luxury or Priority? Ethiopia Wants a Light Rail

Lin Le
2019

The Ethiopian government is planning on constructing the country’s first light rail in its capital city Addis Ababa. The project is expected to bring both short-term and long-term benefits: it can help with alleviating the city’s traffic congestion problem, and more importantly, lay the technological foundation for Ethiopia’s grand strategy for a national railway system. Once completed, this modern public transport system will boost the political legitimacy of the incumbent regime.

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Working Paper

Mapping Missing Population in Rural India: A Deep Learning Approach with Satellite Imagery

Wenjie Hu, Jay Harshadbhai Patel, Zoe-Alanah Robert, Paul Novosad, Samuel Asher, Zhongyi Tang, Marshall Burke, David Lobell, Stefano Ermon
AAAI/ACM Conference , 2019

Millions of people worldwide are absent from their country’s census. Accurate, current, and granular population metrics are critical to improving government allocation of resources, to measuring disease control, to responding to natural disasters, and to studying any aspect of human life in these communities. Satellite imagery can provide sufficient information to build a population map without the cost and time of a government census.

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Case Studies

Bridging Regions, Strengthening Ties: The East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) in Malaysia

Jennifer Fei
2019

Malaysia is a Southeast Asian nation strategically located along major regional trade routes. Its national government must balance intense geopolitical pressures from neighboring countries with the need for domestic economic growth. In an effort to divert trade routes away from Singapore and to increase connectivity between its coasts, Prime Minister Najib Razak has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China to build a Chinese-backed East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) across peninsular Malaysia. As an outspoken Member of Parliament in the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), Dr.

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Journal Article

Can Bureaucrats Really be Paid like CEOs? Substitution Between Incentives and Resources Among School Administrators in China

Renfu Luo, Grant Miller, Scott Rozelle, Sean Sylvia, Marcos Vera-Hernández
Journal of the European Economic Association , 2019

Unlike performance incentives for private sector managers, little is known about performance incentives for managers in public sector bureaucracies. Through a randomized trial in rural China, we study performance incentives rewarding school administrators for reducing student anemia -- as well as complementarity between incentives and orthogonally assigned discretionary resources. Large (but not small) incentives and unrestricted grants both reduced anemia, but incentives were more cost-effective. Although unrestricted grants and small incentives do not interact, grants fully crowd-out the effect of larger incentives. Our findings suggest that performance incentives can be effective in bureaucratic environments, but they are not complementary to discretionary resources. 

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Journal Article

Are Infant/Toddler Developmental Delays a Problem Across Rural China?

Lei Wang, Wilson Liang, Cordelia Yu, Mengjie Li, Siqi Zhang, Yonglei Sun, Qingrui Ma, Laura Johnsson, Cody Abbey, Renfu Luo, Ai Yue, Yu Bai, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Comparative Economics , 2019

Using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development-III (BSID-III), we examine the rates of developmental delays among children aged 0–3 years in four major subpopulations of rural China, which, altogether, account for 69% of China's rural children and 49% of children nationwide. The results indicate that 85% of the 3,353 rural children in our sample suffer from at least one kind of developmental delay. Specifically, 49% of the children have cognitive delays, 52% have language delays, 53% have social emotional delays, and 30% have motor delays. The results suggest that these high rates are due to two main factors in the parenting environment. The first is micronutrient deficiencies, which are reflected in a high prevalence of anemia (42%). The second is an absence of interactive parenting inputs, such as storytelling, reading, singing, and playing. Although we find these inputs to be significantly and positively associated with better developmental outcomes, only a small share of caregivers engage in them. With this large and broad sample, we show that, if China hopes to build up enough human capital to transition to a high-income economy, early childhood development in rural areas urgently requires more attention. 

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Journal Article

Breastfeeding and the Risk of Illness among Young Children in Rural China

Shanshan Li, Ai Yue, Cody Abbey, Alexis Medina, Yaojiang Shi
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2019

Poor rural areas in China exhibit the country’s highest rates of child mortality, often stemming from preventable health conditions such as diarrhea and respiratory infection. In this study, we investigate the association between breastfeeding and disease among children aged 6–24 months in poor rural counties in China. To do this, we conducted a longitudinal, quantitative analysis of socioeconomic demographics, health outcomes, and breastfeeding practices for 1802 child–caregiver dyads across 11 nationally designated poverty counties in southern Shaanxi Province in 2013–2014. We found low rates of continued breastfeeding that decreased as children developed: from 58.2% at 6–12 months, to 21.6% at 12–18 months, and finally to 5.2% at 18–24 months. These suboptimal rates are lower than all but one other country in the Asia-Pacific region. We further found that only 18.3% of children 6–12 months old met the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended threshold for minimum dietary diversity, defined as consuming four or more of seven specific food groups. Breastfeeding was strongly associated with lower rates of both diarrhea and cough in bivariate and multivariate analyses. As the first analysis to use longitudinal data to examine the relationship between continued breastfeeding and child illness in China, our study confirms the need for programmatic interventions that promote continued breastfeeding in order to improve toddler health in the region.

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Journal Article

Do Resources Matter? Effects of an In-Class Library Project on Student Independent Reading Habits in Primary Schools in Rural China

Hongmei Yi, Di Mo, Huan Wang, Qiufeng Gao, Yaojiang Shi, Paiou Wu, Cody Abbey, Scott Rozelle
Reading Research Quarterly , 2018

It is commonly believed that reading challenges should be addressed early to reduce the likelihood that developmental delays will impact students over the long term. However, students in developing countries often have limited access to reading resources. In this study, the authors used a randomized controlled trial of 11,083 fourth‐ and fifth‐grade students in 120 primary schools in rural China to examine the causal effect of an in‐class library program on student reading outcomes and academic achievement in schools with poor reading resources over an eight‐month period. An in‐class library was installed in each of the selected classes in the 40 treatment schools. The authors found that the program significantly improved student affinity toward reading and student reading habits, and in these regards, it narrowed the gap between male and female students, between low‐ and high‐performing students, and between left‐behind children and children living with parents. However, the authors found no overall effect of the program on reading and academic achievement and a negative effect on student confidence in reading. There was also no effect on student, teacher, and primary caregiver perceptions toward the effect of independent reading on academic achievement, nor any effect on whether teachers and primary caregivers provided reading instructions to students. The authors propose three possible explanations for these findings: a lack of reading instruction from teachers and caregivers, a lack of reading materials specifically tailored to local needs and interests, and the relatively short duration of the intervention.

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Case Studies

Electrifying Power Africa: Balancing National Principles and International Pressures

Kate Gasparro
2018

In 2013, President Barack Obama announced Power Africa, the U.S.’s initiative to bring energy infrastructure to Sub-Saharan Africa. In the years following, the initiative enjoyed bipartisan support and congress passed enabling legislation in 2016. Despite early momentum for Power Africa, the initiative has yet to achieve its potential. This case follows the challenges and limitations of Power Africa in the face of growing and evolving Chinese pressures on the African continent. At a time when China is investing more than ever in Africa’s infrastructure, the U.S.

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Journal Article

Governance Innovation for a Connected World: Protecting Free Expression, Diversity and Civic Engagement in the Global Digital Ecosystem

Eileen Donahoe, Fen Osler Hampson
2018

The emergence of a global digital ecosystem has been a boon for global communication and the democratization of the means of distributing information. The internet, and the social media platforms and web applications running on it, have been used to mobilize pro-democracy protests and give members of marginalized communities a chance to share their voices with the world.

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Book

Bearing the Weight of the World: Exploring Maternal Embodiment (Chapter: Indeterminate Life: Dealing with Radioactive Contamination as a Voluntary Evacuee Mother)

Maxime Polleri,
2018

The maternal body is a site of contested dynamics of power, identity, experience, autonomy, occupation, and control.

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Policy Brief

Break Through: Women in Silicon Valley, Womenomics in Japan Final Report

Japan Program at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center , 2018

On August 9, 2018, the Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center (APARC) hosted a conference, “Break Through: Women in Silicon Valley, Womenomics in Japan" with support from the Acceleration Program in Tokyo for Women (APT).

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Policy Brief

Agricultural Policies in the Caribbean: A Regional Analysis

Timothy E. Josling, Carmine Paolo De Salvo, Olga Shik, Rachel Boyce, William Foster, Christian Derlagen, Gonzalo Muñoz, Jesús De los Santos, Sybille Nuenninghoff, Budry Bayard, Sebastien Gachot, Cleeford Pavilus
Inter-American Development Bank , 2018

This publication summarizes the agricultural policy analyses conducted in nine Caribbean countries (Suriname, Guyana, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Belize, Barbados, The Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago) in the framework of the IDB’s Agrimonitor initiative. The document discusses how agricultural policies affect producers and consumers as well as how the limited funding for agricultural services, such as research and infrastructure, could limit the ability of Caribbean farmers to compete effectively in global markets.

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Case Studies

Weighing the Environment: Ghana's Bui Dam

Serena Li
2018

This case examines the environmental permitting process leading up to the construction of the Bui Dam, the second largest hydropower facility in Ghana. Intended to provide much needed relief to the nation’s persistent power challenges, the project secured proper funding from China Exim Bank in 2005, fulfilling several decades of attempts to build the dam. At issue, however, are the potential environmental and social impacts associated with dam construction.

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Journal Article

The Quality of Tuberculosis Care in Urban Migrant Clinics in China

Hao Xue, Jennifer Hager, Qi An, Kai Liu, Jing Zhang, Emma Auden, Bingyan Yang, Jie Yang, Hongyan Liu, Jingchun Nie, Aiqin Wang, Chengchao Zhou, Yaojiang Shi, Sean Sylvia
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2018

Large and increasing numbers of rural-to-urban migrants provided new challenges for tuberculosis control in large cities in China and increased the need for high quality tuberculosis care delivered by clinics in urban migrant communities. Based on a household survey in migrant communities, we selected and separated clinics into those that mainly serve migrants and those that mainly serve local residents. Using standardized patients, this study provided an objective comparison of the quality of tuberculosis care delivered by both types of clinics and examined factors related to quality care. Only 27% (95% confidence interval (CI) 14–46) of cases were correctly managed in migrant clinics, which is significantly worse than it in local clinics (50%, 95% CI 28–72). Clinicians with a base salary were 41 percentage points more likely to demonstrate better case management. Furthermore, clinicians with upper secondary or higher education level charged 20 RMB lower out of pocket fees than less-educated clinicians. In conclusion, the quality of tuberculosis care accessed by migrants was very poor and policies to improve the quality should be prioritized in current health reforms. Providing a base salary was a possible way to improve quality of care and increasing the education attainment of urban community clinicians might reduce the heavy barrier of medical expenses for migrants

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Journal Article

A move beyond sustainability certification: The evolution of the chocolate industry's sustainable sourcing practices

Tannis Thorlakson
Business Strategy and Development , 2018

Companies' sustainable sourcing practices play an increasing role in addressing the social and environmental challenges in agricultural supply chains. Yet the approaches companies take to regulate their supply chains continue to evolve. I use the chocolate industry as a critical case to explore how and why companies have changed their approaches to sustainable cocoa sourcing over the last 20 years.

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Journal Article

Armed conflict and child mortality in Africa: a geospatial analysis

Zachary Wagner, Sam Heft-Neal, Zulfiqar A Bhutta,Robert E Black, Marshall Burke, Eran Bendavid
The Lancet , 2018

The extent to which armed conflicts—events such as civil wars, rebellions, and interstate conflicts—are an important driver of child mortality is unclear. While young children are rarely direct combatants in armed conflict, the violent and destructive nature of such events might harm vulnerable populations residing in conflict-affected areas. A 2017 review estimated that deaths of individuals not involved in combat outnumber deaths of those directly involved in the conflict, often more than five to one.

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Journal Article

The Politics of Energy and Climate Change in Japan under Abe: Abenergynomics

Trevor Incerti, Phillip Lipscy
Asian Survey , 2018

Under what we call Abenergynomics, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō has used energy policy to support the growth objectives of Abenomics, even when the associated policies are publicly unpopular, opposed by utility companies, or harmful to the environment. We show how Abenergynomics has shaped Japanese policy on nuclear power, electricity deregulation, renewable energy, and climate change.

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