Work in progress

Who wants property rights? Conjoint evidence from Senegal [Link to paper]

Why don’t more farmers formalize their land rights? Previous research assumes that households will avail themselves of formal land titles when they are able. The hypothesized benefit of land titling is increase tenure security, but where households lack confidence in state institutions, they may not believe that land titles will be advantageous in reducing expropriation. I use a field conjoint experiment of 1,164 household heads across rural Senegal to understand which attributes affect the perceived likelihood of winning a land dispute. Land titles increase the likelihood of winning a perceived land dispute for all respondents, but the effect is weaker for those who lack confidence in formal institutions. Social proximity to customary elites does not affect these results. A structural topic model shows that where formal titles are not a deciding factors, respondents discuss improvements made to the land when considering potential land disputes. Taken together, this paper shows how external attributes affect households’ confidence of winning land disputes and their eventual take-up of formal land titles.

Pitfalls and tradeoffs in measuring support for violent extremism: Evidence from Niger and Burkina Faso [with Ryan Sheely and Adam Lichtenheld] [Link to paper]

Academics, policymakers, and other researchers use a mixture of disparate strategies to measure growing support for violent extremism in the Sahel and elsewhere. This paper leverage the confluence of five different measures of support for violence to explore differences in how each captures the underlying phenomenon. These measurements include an original survey on support for violence among 1,772 youth in Niger and Burkina Faso, qualitative rankings of village-level vulnerability to violent extremism by local elites, and data from ACLED. Together, this data allows us to 1) provide insight into validly and reliably measuring violent extremism – a challenge for scholars and policymakers – and 2) explore the extent to which commonly used measurement strategies capture the same underlying phenomena.

Getting to youths: negotiation training, participatory institutions, and support for violent extremism in Niger [with Kathryn M. Lance and Ryan Sheely]. [Link to pre-analysis plan]

This paper uses a randomized control trial in Niger to understand how skills training combine with informal institutions to reduce support for violent extremism. Specifically, we leverage a USAID program in the Tillabery and Maradi regons of Niger which supported soft skills training and funded a community-decided development project in each target village. In a subset of these villages, youth also took part in an ‘Interest-Based Negotiation’ (IBN) training. This training facilitated youth participation in their village’s deliberations about what type of development project to choose by providing both youth and community leaders with the skills needed to peacefully resolve disputes emerging as a result of the project and broader participation by youth in their communities. We hypothesize that projects in treated villages will better align with youth interests, and that treatment will reduce the likelihood of conflicts arising from youth participation in these local decision making processes. This research contributes to a growing literature on how skills-based training can reduce support for violent extremism, as well as the propensity to engage in violence. It also demonstrates how strengthening dispute resolution capacities can contribute to regulating conflicts in areas of weak state capacity.

Feeding conflict? New data on the impact of humanitarian food aid on civil conflict [Link to paper].

Does humanitarian food aid increase violent conflict? Previous measures of humanitarian food aid suffer from two problems: (1) they fail to account for differences in within-country transportation costs and (2) they conflate humanitarian and nonhumanitarian food aid. I introduce a new dataset of USAID humanitarian food assistance across 103 countries from 1991 to 2019 which resolves these problems. I exclude shipping costs by using tonnage of food commodities and isolate the humanitarian portions of USAID’s food assistance. I find no relation between humanitarian food assistance and the incidence of civil conflict. I also find that humanitarian food aid does not affect conflict termination or the duration of peace. These results do not change when I use these new data to proxy for the ease of appropriating humanitarian aid. By introducing new program-level data, this paper provides evidence on a disputed linkage and advances the literature on the unintended consequences of humanitarian assistance.

In Vi(vi)no Veritas? Expertise, review accuracy and reputation inflation [with Rebecca Janssen] [Link to paper]

Review systems including quantitative measures as well as text-based expression of experiences are omnipresent in today’s digital platform economy. This paper studies the existence of reputation inflation, i.e. unjustified increases in ratings, with a special focus of heterogeneity between experienced and non-experienced users. Using data on more than 5 million reviews from an online wine platform we compare consistency between numerical feedback and textual reviews as well as sentiment measures. We show that overall the wine platform displays strongly increasing numerical feedback over our time period from 2014 to 2020 while this is not the case for our control measures. This gap appears to be even stronger for users with less experience or expertise in wine reviewing. We conclude, that online platforms as well as potential customers should be aware of the phenomenon of reputation inflation and simplifying feedback to one number might do a disservice to review platforms goal of providing a representative quality assessment.