Review of ‘Why We Fight’—forthcoming in Faith & Economics

About a year ago I became the Book Review Editor at Faith & Economics, a peer-reviewed economics journal published by the Association of Christian Economists. It has been a rewarding experience so far. Our last issue, for example, included reviews of Scott Cunningham’s Causal Inference: The Mixtape, Thomas Piketty’s Capital and Ideology, Paul Oslington’s Political Economy as Natural Theology, W. Kip Viscusi’s Pricing Lives, and Paul Wilson’s A Sacred Journey.

I chose to review Chris Blattman’s new book Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace, as I have been anticipating the release of this book for quite some time now. My review, which is forthcoming in Faith & Economics is available as a pre-print here. Here are the first two paragraphs of my review:

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The OARES at 70: Reflections on Contributions to DEIB

The Online Agricultural and Resource Economics Seminar (OARES), which I co-organize with Marc Bellemare, has now facilitated 70 presentations. Starting in May 2020, as COVID-19 lockdowns set in and in-person components of academic life stalled, the OARES has persisted for four semesters and one summer. Marc and I thought that it was time to pause and reflect on the OARES, to date. This reflection is both for our own benefit as we imagine what the future of the OARES might look like, but also to report some descriptive statistics based on the first 70 presentations in the OARES.

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Have an ordinal dependent variable? Use this robustness test.

Ordinal variables are everywhere. Data providing information about happiness, levels of customer satisfaction, employees’ satisfaction, mental stress, psychological well-being, societal trust, and other important variables are now regularly collected and analyzed by national governments, large multinational companies, and researchers. However, because these data are not directly observable or quantitatively measurable, they are thus not measured on objective cardinal units. This presents a key challenge when performing standard quantitative analysis.

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“The Coronavirus Pandemic and Food Security: Evidence from Mali”—Forthcoming

My paper, co-authored with Guigonan Serge Adjognon and Aly Sanoh, on changes in experienced food security associated with the coronavirus pandemic is now forthcoming at Food Policy. In the paper, we combine pre-pandemic survey data with follow-up phone survey data from Mali, and find some interesting—and perhaps surprising—patterns in experienced food security within Mali. Here is the abstract:

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Higher Aspirations, Less Investment? Some New Experimental Evidence

New research by David McKenzie, Aakash Mohpal, and Dean Yang finds that exogenously increased financial aspirations lead to less borrowing and business investments two years later.

This finding is consistent with existing evidence, using observational data, of an inverted U-shaped relationship between the aspirations gap and ‘future oriented’ behavior such as investments (by me), education spending (by Phillip Ross), on saving (by Janzen et al.), and existing theoretical work (by Genicot and Ray). It is an important finding because while aspirations may be an important factor that can lead to increased ‘future oriented’ behavior, increasing aspirations by themselves may not necessarily be beneficial if setting aspirations ‘too high’ can lead to frustration and possibly a behavioral poverty trap.

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“Aspirations and Investments in Rural Myanmar”—Forthcoming

In 2014, while I was completing my M.S. degree at MSU, I worked as a research assistant on a data collection project in Mon State Myanmar. As part of this work, I designed a module to be included in a larger household survey that aimed to measure the hopes and aspirations of respondents. That initial work, which was largely a data validation effort, was published in the Journal of Development Studies in 2018.

I am now very happy to report that my paper investigating the relationship between aspirations and investment choices, using these data, is now forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Inequality. Here is the abstract:

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“How Much Does the Cardinal Treatment of Ordinal Variables Matter?”—Forthcoming

I am very excited to share that my paper, “How Much Does the Cardinal Treatment of Ordinal Variables Matter? An Empirical Investigation” is now (finally) forthcoming in the journal Political Analysis. I wrote the first draft of this paper in my 2nd-year paper class at the University of Minnesota. So, publishing this paper in the official methods journal of the American Political Science Association is particularly rewarding.

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COVID-19 and Trends in Conflict Globally

I am happy to announce that a short research note titled “COVID-19 and Conflict,” co-authored with Colette Salemi, is now out in World Development. It is a modest study, but one that we hope will inspire and motivate future research relating to pandemic-related disruptions and inter-group conflict. Here are some highlights:

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