Colonialism and Female Empowerment: A Two-Sided Legacy, with Helmut Rainer, Journal of Development Economics
Link to Working Paper

Coverage: The Academic Times, Frontiers in African Economic History

Greater than the Sum of the Parts? Evidence on Mechanisms Operating in Women’s Groups, with Lucía Díaz-Martin, Akshara Gopalan, and Seema Jayachandran, Forthcoming in World Bank Research Observer

Coverage: World Bank Development Impact Blog Post

Working Papers

Cultural Distance and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, with Ana Tur-Prats, Reject & Resubmit at the Quarterly Journal of Economics

This paper examines the relationship between ethnic-based gender norms and conflict-related sexual violence. We generate a novel dyadic dataset that contains information on the ethnic identity of all the actors involved in ethnic civil conflicts around the world between 1989 and 2019, and their use of sexual violence. We exploit ethnographic information to construct a new gender inequality index at the ethnicity level that captures deep-rooted gender norms. First, we find that gender-unequal armed actors are more likely to be perpetrators of sexual violence. Second, we consider the cultural distance in gender norms between the combatants, and show that sexual violence is driven by a specific clash of conceptions on the appropriate role of men and women in society: sexual violence increases when the perpetrator is more gender-unequal than the victim. Additional analyses suggest that gender norms influence both the strategic use of sexual violence for military purposes and the expressive use of sexual violence for private motivations. These patterns are specific to sexual violence and do not explain general violence within a conflict. Differences in other cultural dimensions unrelated to gender are not associated with conflict-related sexual violence.

Cultural Distance and Ethnic Civil Conflict

Ethnically diverse countries are more prone to conflict, yet we lack an understanding of why some groups engage in conflict and others do not. In this paper, I argue that civil conflict is explained by ethnic groups’ cultural distance to the central government: an increase in cultural distance increases an ethnicity's propensity to fight over government power. To identify this effect, I leverage within-ethnicity variation in cultural distance to the government resulting from power transitions between ethnic groups over time. I validate my findings in a triple difference-in-differences design using ethnicities partitioned across countries, and through a novel instrumental variables approach. As an instrument for cultural distance, I use differences in ethnic homelands’ exposure to the route of the Bantu expansion, a prehistoric migration that shaped culture in sub-Saharan Africa. I show that differences in preferences over public goods are the mechanism driving the effects of cultural distance on conflict. First, cultural distance triggers only conflict over government power, but not conflict over territory or resources. Second, using individual-level survey data, I find that respondents dislike the mix of public policies provided by a culturally distant government. By shedding light on which ethnic groups are more likely to rebel at a given point in time, these findings can inform strategies to target conflict prevention efforts.

Work in Progress

A Worldwide Gender Inequality Index at the Ethnicity Level, with Ana Tur-Prats

Other Writings

What Works to Enhance Women’s Agency: Cross-Cutting Lessons from Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Studies, J-PAL Working Paper, with Wei Chang, Lucía Díaz-Martin, Akshara Gopalan, Seema Jayachandran, and Claire Walsh

Women’s agency continues to be limited in many contexts around the world. Much of the existing evidence synthesis focuses on one outcome or intervention type, bracketing the complex, overlapping manner in which agency takes shape. This review adopts a cross-cutting approach to analyzing evidence across different domains and outcomes of women’s agency and focuses on understanding the mechanisms that explain intervention impacts. Drawing from quantitative evidence from 160 randomized controlled trials and quasi-experiments in low- and middle-income countries, we summarize what we know about supporting women’s agency along with what needs additional research.

Coverage: J-PAL Evidence Review