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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Testing and Correcting for Endogeneity with Discontinuities and No Exclusion Restriction

Applied microeconomists, like us, spend a lot of our time thinking (…erm… worrying) about the bias from endogeneity embedded in our empirical estimates. That is why the work of Carolina Caetano (and co-authors), in methodological papers published in Econometrica and the Journal of Econometrics seems so exciting to us.

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“The Other Way COVID Will Kill: Hunger”

That is the title of a recent New York Times article, by Peter S. GoodmanAbdi Latif Dahir, and  on how complications driven by the spread of the coronavirus has led to increased challenges for many people in accessing nutritious and healthy food. The article is a tour de force—reporting from Afghanistan, South Africa, India, South Sudan, and Kenya—and begins with the following vignette.

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The impact of maternal health on child health

A cool paper on the impact of maternal health on child health, by Leah Bevis and Kira Villa, is now forthcoming in the Journal of Human Resources. I’ve had the opportunity to see this paper presented by both Leah and Kira at multiple conferences over the last few years. It really is excellent work by two very talented economists.

The headline result is that a mother’s health impacts their child’s health throughout childhood. Thus, previous estimates of the transmission rate of maternal health on child health at a single point in time underestimate the full effect.

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Export Crops and Extra Conflict

I recently stumbled upon this new(ish) paper, by Benjamin Crost and Joseph Felter published in the June 2020 issue of the Journal of the European Economic Association. This paper shows a plausibly causal link between the export value of agricultural products (e.g. bananas in this case) and violent civil conflict. This is an important and interesting link because decades-old theories of economic development suggest the shift to high-value (and export-oriented) agricultural production is an important mechanism driving economic growth and poverty reduction.

Let’s dig into this bananas paper! (Okay, sorry about that.)

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