Sylvan Herskowitz, a PhD student in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley, has won the 2015 Luther G. Tweeten Student Scholarship for the research proposal: The Causes and Consequences of Sports Betting in Uganda. The proposal, which was jointly submitted by Co-PIs Herskowitz, Bruno Yawe (Makerere University), and Jeremy Magruder (UC Berkeley), was a recipient of the 2015 EASST Research Grant Competition.
The study explores whether high levels of betting participation are driven by behavioral factors or financial constraints. The study will include 320 market workers and motorcycle drivers in Kampala who regularly participate in sports betting. Participants will be interviewed about their bi-weekly betting, earning, and consumption behavior over a period of two months. Small wallets will be provided to randomly selected participants as a mechanism to increase mental accounting barriers between money allocated to betting and other expenditures. Randomized primes will also be used to assess whether demand for lumpy goods drives betting participation. The primary outcomes of interest will be the response of betting demand to these treatments as well as impacts on other expenditures and investments.
When asked by the Agriculture and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) what prompted him to pursue this research topic, Herskowitz writes:
"I first became interested in sports betting while working in Monrovia, Liberia. It was impossible to walk more than a block without seeing groups of young men discussing and debating different European football matches and placing bets with international betting companies. It was immediately clear that both the pervasiveness and intensity of sports betting throughout Liberia were huge. Sports betting occupies a large portion of these men’s weekly expenditures and I was interested to develop a better understanding of the underlying reasons for such heavy participation as well as the impact betting has on their lives. There is a very similar form of sports betting in Uganda (as well as many other countries throughout the world). Following the outbreak of Ebola and before its resolution was known, I decided to explore the possibility of conducting a study on sports betting in Kampala, Uganda."
Find out more by reading the original announcement on the AAEA website, found here, or by visiting the EASST Evidence page here. If you are interested in receiving funding to evaluate an innovative intervention in health, education, economic development, energy, or other relevant sector, the 2016 EASST Research Grant Competition is accepting grant applications from pairs of researchers from the CEGA faculty network and East Africa through April 13th, 2016.
Over the course of the next 6 months, fellows from the East Africa Social Science Translation (EASST) Collaborative will be leading a series of workshops in Uganda to enhance the theoretical and practical understanding of how to conduct impact evaluation research for university staff and graduate students at Makerere University, Gulu University, Mbarara University, and Uganda Christian University.
The first of 15 workshops, which will have an estimated 800 total participants throughout the series, was held on February 15 at Uganda Christian University, Mukono. The workshop gave an overview of impact evaluations, experimental and quasi-experimental methods, best tools and practices for transparency and reproducibility, and field practice and methods. The first workshop was led by Munshi Sulaiman (Director of Research, BRAC International), and EASST fellows Dr. John Bosco Asiimwe, Dr. Saint Kizito Omala, and Annet Adong. Of the 30 participants, 87.5% would recommend the training to someone else, and 70.6% reported being interested in a more advanced workshop in the future.
Saint Kizito Omala holds a PhD in Applied Statistics from Makerere University in Uganda. He spent last fall at UC Berkeley, working with faculty mentors Fred Finan and Ernesto Dal Bo to design a research project that will evaluate the impact of an education program aiming to scale up early grade reading interventions. “I was visiting the University [of Makerere] to meet a lecturer and researcher in economics who told me he was traveling to the US. As far as I knew, the U.S. was a no-go area for me. I asked him ‘How does that happen? How does one go to the US?’ He explained the scholarship, the process, and, more importantly, he said: ‘you can also try’. That was December, and within months I’d embarked on the application process for the EASST Fellowship”.
Kizito, along with colleagues, Hailemariam Ayalew (Fall 2015 EASST Fellow) and Fredrick Manang (Spring 2015 EASST Fellow), spent a chilly November afternoon at UC Berkeley discussing the opportunities they’ve had as a result of their fellowship. Like Kizito, Haile and Fred found out about the fellowship through previous alumni. The fact that friends with similar qualifications had been chosen to participate played an important role in their deciding to apply. They all wanted to go abroad, to “learn what’s out there”, enhance their impact evaluation skills and build a strong network to support their research in East Africa. However, their experiences told them fellowships for African researchers were highly competitive- and would more than likely end up in the hands of those best connected. As Haile explains, “information is the base problem, scholars might be brilliant back home but they don’t get access to opportunities that will enable them to get here.” Kizito agrees: “the greatest hurdle is having access to a transparent process through which one can attain a scholarship”.
It’s true- programs like this are very competitive, but in the case of EASST in particular, they are accessible to all those skilled, eligible and eager to learn. CEGA’s EASST program seeks to build the capacity of the next generation of East African researchers in experimental design, econometrics and field-based data collection for anti-poverty programs. The fellowship offers East African researchers an opportunity to partner with CEGA faculty and doctoral students who provide support in research design, quantitative data analysis, proposal writing, and presentation. Fellows receive a living stipend, round-trip travel to Berkeley and spend their semester auditing courses, presenting research, attending seminars, developing curricula and designing collaborative research projects. They also take advantage of other opportunities in the Bay Area, exploring the local sites, visiting other CEGA campuses and learning from all CEGA affiliates in the area (take a look through our blog to see what Kizito, Haile and Fred were up to last fall).
When asked what the most stimulating part of the EASST program is, each fellow has their own perspective. For Fred, “the most valuable element of the interactions at Berkeley is the ideas creation portion… Researchers here are at the frontier: whichever field you are talking about (health, education, tax issues), you meet people who are researching and adding something new to the literature... As a junior researcher, what separates you from the rest is your ability to come up with new ideas, so this exposure is invaluable to me”. For Kizito, “the quality of the instruction is really amazing. The professors are resourceful, accessible and easy to relate to”. As for Haile, his favorite part of the EASST program is “the opportunities the network offers [for us] to continue working with these top of the line researchers, encouraging them to take interest in working with us in the future.”
The EASST Collaborative has opened up the next round of applications to the fellowship. As of January 2016, the call for applications is open for researchers to apply for a 4-month fellowship (sabbatical) at the University of California Berkeley. Please visit the EASST Opportunities page to apply- and spread the word. Let your East African friends and colleagues know about this great opportunity, UC Berkeley awaits!