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 Articles

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 February 11, 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 Articles

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 February 8, 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 Articles

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 January 7, 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 Articles

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 December 16, 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 November 30, 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 Articles

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

Eileen Donahoe, Fen Osler Hampson
2018 November 19, 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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Books

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

Maxime Polleri,
2018 October 30, 2018

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

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Policy Briefs

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

Japan Program at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, 2018 October 24, 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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Journal Articles

The Relationship Between Birth Season and Early Childhood Development: Evidence from Northwest Rural China

Yu Bai, Guanminjia Shang, Lei Wang, Yonglei Sun, Annie Osborn, Scott Rozelle
PLoS ONE, 2018 October 11, 2018

Objective:
To examine the correlation between birth season and early childhood development.

Background:
Almost all previous studies that examine the effect of birth season on early childhood development were conducted in developed countries with a limited sample size. The present study was conducted in poor, rural areas of western China, a developing region with a continental monsoon climate.

Method:
We administered a hemoglobin test to 650 infants (52% boys), aged 8–10 months, using a Hemocue Hb 201+ finger prick system, and assessed the cognitive and psychomotor development of sample infants using Bayley Scales of Infant Development.

Results:
Infants born in winter have higher Hb concentrations (t = 3.63, p < 0.001) compared to infants born in summer. Similarly, cognitive development scores (t = 5.17, p < 0.001) and psychomotor development scores (t = 10.60, p < 0.001) were significantly higher among winter-born infants.

Conclusion:
The findings point to the involvement of birth season in early childhood development and suggest that aspects of the environment shape the experiences that contribute to early childhood development. Policy suggestions such as providing infants with ample opportunities for movement and stimulation during the cold season are discussed.

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Policy Briefs

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 October 1, 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 September 20, 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 Articles

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 September 18, 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 Articles

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

Tannis Thorlakson
Business Strategy and Development, 2018 September 3, 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 Articles

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 August 30, 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 Articles

The fog of development: evaluating the Millennium Villages Project

Eran Bendavid, Eran Bendavid
The Lancet: Global Health, 2018 August 9, 2018
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Journal Articles

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

Trevor Incerti, Phillip Lipscy
Asian Survey, 2018 August 1, 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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Journal Articles

Can Reading Programs Improve Reading Skills and Academic Performance in Rural China?

Qiufeng Gao, Huan Wang, Di Mo, Yaojiang Shi, Kaleigh Kenny, Scott Rozelle
China Economic Review, 2018 July 6, 2018

In this paper, we attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of reading programs at improving the reading skills and academic achievement of primary school students in rural China. Using survey data on 4108 students, we find that students exhibited low levels of reading achievement, independent reading quantity, and reading confidence in the absence of any treatment. However, our results also suggest that properly designed treatments may improve the reading and academic outcomes of students.

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Working Papers

Impact of Online Computer Assisted Learning on Education: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in China

Bin Tang, Boya Wang, Di Mo, Linxiu Zhang, Scott Rozelle, Emma Auden, Blake Mandell
Working Paper, 2018 June 28, 2018

Education of poor and disadvantaged populations has been a long-standing challenge for education systems in both developed and developing countries. In China, millions of students in rural areas and migrant communities lag far behind their urban counterparts in terms of academic achievement. When they fall behind, they often have no way to catch up. Many of their parents have neither the skills nor the money to provide remedial tutoring; rural teachers often do not have time to give students the individual attention they need.

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Journal Articles

Hierarchical Modeling of Seed Variety Yields and Decision Making for Future Planting Plans

Huaiyang Zhong, Xiaocheng Li, David Lobell, Stefano Ermon, Margaret Brandeau
Environment Systems and Decisions, 2018 June 21, 2018

Eradicating hunger and malnutrition is a key development goal of the twenty first century. This paper addresses the problem of optimally identifying seed varieties to reliably increase crop yield within a risk-sensitive decision making framework. Specifically, a novel hierarchical machine learning mechanism for predicting crop yield (the yield of different seed varieties of the same crop) is introduced.

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Books

Manipulating Globalization: The Influence of Bureaucrats on Business in China

Chen, Ling
Stanford University Press, 2018 June 18, 2018

The era of globalization saw China emerge as the world's manufacturing titan. However, the "made in China" model—with its reliance on cheap labor and thin profits—has begun to wane. Beginning in the 2000s, the Chinese state shifted from attracting foreign investment to promoting the technological competitiveness of domestic firms. This shift caused tensions between winners and losers, leading local bureaucrats to compete for resources in government budget, funding, and tax breaks.

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Journal Articles

Satellite detection of cover crops and their effects on crop yield in the Midwestern United States

Christopher Seifert, George Azzari, David Lobell
Environmental Research Letters, 2018 June 13, 2018

The practice of planting winter cover crops has seen renewed interest as a solution to environmental issues with the modern maize- and soybean-dominated row crop production system of the US Midwest. We examine whether cover cropping patterns can be assessed at scale using publicly available satellite data, creating a classifier with 91.5% accuracy (.68 kappa).

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Journal Articles

Ability Tracking and Social Trust in China's Rural Secondary School System

Fan Li, Prashant Loyalka, Hongmei Yi, Yaojiang Shi, Natalie Johnson, Scott Rozelle
School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 2018 June 12, 2018

The goal of this paper is to describe and analyze the relationship between ability tracking and student social trust, in the context of low-income students in developing countries. Drawing on the results from a longitudinal study among 1,436 low-income students across 132 schools in rural China, we found a significant lack of interpersonal trust and confidence in public institutions among poor rural young adults. We also found that slow-tracked students have a significantly lower level of social trust, comprised of interpersonal trust and confidence in public institutions, relative to their fast-tracked peers. This disparity might further widen the gap between relatively privileged students who stay in school and less privileged students who drop out of school. These results suggest that making high school accessible to more students may improve social trust among rural low-income young adults.

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Journal Articles

Unequal Access to College in China: How Far Have Poor, Rural Students Been Left Behind?

Hongbin Li, Prashant Loyalka, Binzhen Wu, Jieyu Xie, Scott Rozelle
The China Quarterly, 2018 May 22, 2018

In the 1990s, rural youth from poor counties in China had limited access to college. After mass college expansion started in 1998, however, it was unclear whether rural youth from poor counties would gain greater access. The aim of this paper is to examine the gap in college and elite college access between rural youth from poor counties and other students after expansion. We estimate the gaps in access by using data on all students who took the college entrance exam in 2003. Our results show that gaps in access remained high even after expansion.

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Journal Articles

Effect of a Local Vision Care Center on Eyeglasses Use and School Performance in Rural China A Cluster Randomized Clinical Trial

Yue Ma, Nathan Congdon, Yaojiang Shi, Ruth Hogg, Alexis Medina, Matthew Boswell, Scott Rozelle, Mony Iver
JAMA Ophthalmology, 2018 May 10, 2018

Can a county-based vision center increase eyeglasses use and improve school performance among primary schoolchildren in rural China? This cluster randomized clinical trial of 31 schools and 2613 participants showed that children who received eyeglasses earlier in the school year performed significantly better on an end-of-year mathematics test than children who received eyeglasses later in the year, equivalent to half a semester. Provision of free eyeglasses also improved children's use of spectacles.

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Journal Articles

Contract Teachers and Student Achievement in Rural China - Evidence from Class Fixed Effects

Wang Lei, Siqi Zhang, Mengjie Li, Yonglei Sun, Sean Sylvia, Enyan Yang, Guangrong Ma, Linxiu Zhang, Di Mo, Scott Rozelle
The Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 2018 April 10, 2018
For schooling to play an important role in the development of human capital, the system of education needs to provide quality education, which among other things requires high-quality teachers. Facing fiscal constraints and growing enrolments,
school systems in developing countries often supplement their teaching staff by hiring contract teachers. However, there is limited evidence on how the effectiveness of these teachers compares to that of civil service teachers. We use a dataset from rural primary schools in western China to estimate the causal effect of contract teachers on student achievement and find that gains in student scores on standardised examinations in mathematics and Chinese are less in classes taught by contract teachers than in classes taught by civil service teachers. The results demonstrate that China’s education system needs to focus on producing high-quality teachers to improve the quality of schooling in its rural education system. The findings imply that educators in developing countries should not only seek to hire increasingly more civil service teachers in rural schools, but they should also identify ways of improving the quality of contract teachers. If efforts to improve teaching can succeed, rural students can learn more, earn higher incomes and contribute more to the productivity of the overall economy.
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