By Chelsea Downs and Getachew Kassa
One of the ways EASST fellows build their research capacity and connections while at UC Berkeley is through attending seminars and conferences in development economics, public health, and cutting edge topics in the social sciences. Every semester, our fellows attend weekly development seminars, which expose them to rigorous research at the forefront of the field. One-day conferences, such as Pacific Conference for Development Economics (PacDev) or Geospatial Analysis for International Development, are equally important for their networking value and awareness of innovative research being conducted by Professor’s and PhD students in the social sciences.
Two weeks ago, EASST staff and current fellows Getachew Kassa, Werner Maokola, and Apollo Maima traveled to the Development Economics session of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Economics (SITE) Summer Workshops, hosted by the Stanford Economics Department. The day featured a range of presentations, from a study on the barriers to sectoral mobility in Indonesia to a natural experiment studying the effect of redevelopment in Mumbai. Supreet Kaur presented her research on “Testing for Labor Rationing: Revealed Preference Estimates from Demand Shocks,” which is set in a low-income state in India called Orissa. Kaur explained how they orchestrated hiring shocks through temporary employment of low-skill manufacturing workers at external worksites. In the treatment villages, interested workers would sign-up for the job and from that list, a subset was randomly chosen to go to the worksites. Through examining the impact of this supply shock in both peak and lean season, the study found that seasonality plays an essential role in the labor market and overall there is labor underutilization. Another compelling presentation was by Michael Gechter on “The Welfare Consequences Of Formalizing Developing Country Cities: Evidence From The Mumbai Mills Redevelopment.” The study found significant spillovers, in the form of increased housing quality and formal employment density, from formal development in central Mumbai. Alongside the positive effects, the formal development had negative effects on equity due to increased gentrification.
One of our current fellows from Ethiopia, Getachew Kassa, is pursuing his PhD in Reproductive Health Sciences and has a background in public health. As his first development economics conference while at Berkeley, Kassa said, “the conference provided a total shift in how I perceive the importance of economics in the field of public health.” Specifically, he thinks “the concept of economics should be brought more into the design of public health research and policies, especially in developing countries, such as Ethiopia, where the two fields are currently considered separate.” Kassa also highlighted that the conference was a great opportunity to meet with Professors and PhD students and discuss potential future research collaborations in health economics. For the remainder of the semester, he will continue to develop his skills in impact evaluation and apply this to his research project, a behavioral intervention to reduce HIV and other Sexual Transmitted Infections (STI) among the youth in Ethiopia. Kassa points out that opportunities like attending the SITE workshop are essential for young researchers like him, in order to gain IE knowledge, discuss their research with experts in the field, and make way for future collaborations.