Job Market Papers


This paper uses a quasi-randomized field experiment in Zimbabwe to assess the impact of large-scale community mobilization campaigns to build support for girls and marginalized groups in rural communities. I analyze the impact that the program has had on attitudes, the behaviour of teachers and caregivers, and the learning and progression outcomes of at-risk youth. The quantitative survey and learning assessment data I use for this is complemented by transcripts from focus groups and interviews, which I analyze using innovative text mining methods to measure changes in community sentiment towards marginalized groups. I find that the program improved community attitudes toward girls' education by 0.403 SD over the three and a half year project. This contributed to a 20.9 percentage point increase in the likelihood that students in the treatment group reported receiving enough support from their community to continue learning during COVID-19 school closures, along with other changes in the behaviours of community members and families. The program facilitated better learning and progression outcomes, with marginalized students performing 0.28 SD better on learning assessments after the project. These findings lead to two important conclusions about the efficacy of interventions designed to mobilize communities to reshape community attitudes and support marginalized students. The first is that community attitudes can be influenced in a relatively short time to become more supportive towards marginalized groups. The second is that these interventions can support education outcomes. This paper also demonstrates the usefulness of qualitative methods and text mining techniques for future experimental work.


In 2015 and 2016, Southern Africa experienced one of the severest droughts on record. The drought’s intensity varied significantly across locations in unanticipated ways, providing a natural experiment to estimate the effect of large, negative agricultural shocks. We consider the impact of these shocks on children’s educational outcomes using data from a major education evaluation that was ongoing in rural Zimbabwe at the time of the drought, supplemented by remote-sensing satellite data to measure the drought intensity within each community. Droughts cause decreases in income and food access, which can affect household resource allocation and school attendance as well as learning. We find that drought exposure increased attendance, especially among the poorest students, which is consistent with droughts reducing work opportunities. At the same time, however, we do not see improvements in learning. The drought led to a significant decline in performance on literacy assessments for students who were experiencing food insecurity, and no significant impact on learning overall. This suggests that studies can arrive at very different conclusions depending on their measure of education performance. While most studies focus on either quantity of schooling or quality of learning, we highlight the importance of including both measures in an analysis.


Working Papers


Works In Progress

  • "What Affects the Education Outcomes of Marginalized Students? A Machine Learning Approach to Inform Program Design"

  • "Text Mining Approaches to Efficiently Select a Purposeful Qualitative Sample" – with Christopher Cotton

  • "Vocational Training for Out-of-School students: A Qualitative Evaluation Using Text Mining in Zimbabwe" – with Christopher Cotton, Zachary Robb, Shannon Veenstra, and Lindsay Wallace

  • “Estimating the causal impact of trade liberalization on food security” — with Huw Lloyd-Ellis (based on published report “An Empirical Analysis of the Relationships Between Trade and Food Security” – see above)

  • “Quantifying qualitative data: An alternative to content analysis in survey data” — with Christopher Cotton

  • "Focusing on foundational skills: Understanding literacy and numeracy skill acquisition in Zimbabwe" — with Christopher Cotton

  • "Monetizing education benefits in cost-benefit evaluations" — with Christopher Cotton

Professional Research Reports

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: Improving the Quality of Primary School Education in Malawi (2021) — for Copenhagen Consensus Center and the African Institute for Development Policy, with colleagues

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: Reducing Secondary School Dropout Rates in Malawi (2021) — for Copenhagen Consensus Center and the African Institute for Development Policy, with colleagues

  • An Empirical Analysis of the Relationships Between Trade and Food Security (2020) — for USAID Kenya/East Africa, with Huw-Lloyd Ellis, Edward Carr, and Deanna Gordon

  • Understanding the Relationships Between Trade and Food Security: A Landscape Map (2020) — for USAID Kenya/East Africa, with Huw-Lloyd Ellis, Edward Carr, Anthony Cambas, and Deanna Gordon

  • Midline Evaluation of IGATE-T (2020) — for World Vision UK, with Christopher S. Cotton and Shannon Davis

  • Cost Benefit Analysis of Youth Ready Programs in Central America (2019) — for World Vision Canada, with Bahman Kashi

  • Baseline Evaluation of IGATE-T (2018) — for World Vision UK, with Christopher S. Cotton, Bahman Kashi, and Jay MacKinnon

Non-Refereed Contributions