Voices in Development: A Podcast from Yale's Economic Growth Center

EGC Podcasts

A regular series exploring issues related to sustainable development and economic justice in low and middle income countries. Produced by the Economic Growth Center at Yale University.

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Episodes

Building In-Country Partnerships in Development Economics: Chris Udry, Francis Annan, and Rohini Pande share insights from Ghana and Beyond
2d ago
Building In-Country Partnerships in Development Economics: Chris Udry, Francis Annan, and Rohini Pande share insights from Ghana and Beyond
​Much of the research on economic development in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa, is led by researchers who are outsiders to the regions they study. While this outsider perspective can help them see elements of the social or economic structure less visible to those who are deeply embedded in local institutions, partnerships with individuals and communities living and working in the area provide crucial insights for both the research process and its application to policy.In this episode of Voices in Development, Christopher Udry, Robert E. and Emily King Professor of Economics at Northwestern University, Co-Director of the Global Poverty Research Lab, and former director of the Yale Economic Growth Center, discusses the role of in-country partnerships in development economics research. In collaborating with in-country partners, Udry regularly shares his research findings but rarely makes policy recommendations. "I view my work as more trying to support my local collaborators in providing them with the resources and the tools and maybe the authority to make recommendations to government," he says. "So I view myself as sort of a cheerleader, maybe a coach, for the athletes who are going to do the real policy."This episode also featured Rohini Pande, Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Growth Center, and Francis Annan, Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. Annan, who grew up in Ghana and studies digital financial markets, insurance, and firms, notes that involving in-country partners in the production of research data is essential because it can help reproduce meaningful results. “If the local institutions, the regulators, the users of this evidence are part of the production process for this evidence, it tends to make our lives easier,” he says.
Digital Inclusion & Economic Development: Conversations with Pramod Varma, Alix Peterson Zwane and Rohini Pande
Mar 6 2024
Digital Inclusion & Economic Development: Conversations with Pramod Varma, Alix Peterson Zwane and Rohini Pande
Despite the widespread acknowledgment of the potential for digital technologies to accelerate inclusive economic growth, not everyone has access to the mobile devices, internet connectivity, and affordable data they need to participate meaningfully in the digital economy. This digital divide, which includes gender specific barriers, prevents billions of people from accessing the fundamental digital resources necessary for participation in the modern economy. Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) enables countries to more effectively connect marginalized communities with markets, resources, and services through tools such as a digital ID, but the infrastructure alone does not mean it’s equally accessible to everyone who might benefit.  In this episode of Voices in Development, Pramod Varma, the Chief Architect of Aadhaar, India's digital identification program, discusses the role of DPI in economic development, specifically in terms of increasing access to financial services. Varma argues that the most effective DPI is much like a highway network that is built by the government but traveled by vehicles designed and manufactured by the private sector. With the essential infrastructure in place, he suggests, the private sector, NGOs, and philanthropists can develop faster, cheaper, and more sustainable ways to reach marginalized communities. This episode also featured Rohini Pande, Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Growth Center, and Alix Peterson Zwane, Senior Fellow at the Yale Jackson School and CEO of Global Innovation Fund, who discussed the links between DPI and inclusion.
Supporting Farmers on the Frontlines of the Climate Crisis: Kelsey Jack on Technology Adoption for Climate Adaptation
Dec 7 2023
Supporting Farmers on the Frontlines of the Climate Crisis: Kelsey Jack on Technology Adoption for Climate Adaptation
The vast majority of climate financing is directed towards mitigating, reducing, or preventing greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is a vital need for climate financing aimed at adaptation, protecting the lives and livelihoods of the people most affected by climate change. Low-income countries are disproportionately suffering from climate breakdowns, particularly among the poorest and most vulnerable people within these countries. In this episode of Voices in Development, Kelsey Jack, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, discusses her recently completed study focusing on rainwater harvesting techniques in rural Niger, where intensive agriculture practices have degraded soil quality, making the population particularly vulnerable to climate shocks. Jack studied the impact that rainwater collection has on increasing soil quality through the digging of demi-lunes, which are semicircular basins that farmers dig into the earth to collect rainwater. Jack’s team organized a training period conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture that led to massive adoption of the demi-lunes. The podcast also features interviews with Rohini Pande, Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Growth Center, placing mitigation in the larger climate agenda; Gregory Lane, an Assistant Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, on how innovations in weather forecasting can impact farming practices in India; and Islamul Haque, a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale (Y-RISE), on identifying the “low hanging fruit” in climate adaptation technology.
Navigating trade-offs between the environment and economic growth: Nicholas Ryan on new possibilities for environmental regulation in emerging markets
Oct 31 2023
Navigating trade-offs between the environment and economic growth: Nicholas Ryan on new possibilities for environmental regulation in emerging markets
Today’s environmental crises are affecting lower-income countries – and within those countries, poor and marginalized communities – most of all. Policymakers in these countries are seeking new ways to balance trade-offs between the economic growth that can provide citizens with income-generating opportunities, and the harmful emissions that industrial production usually entails.For over a decade, EGC affiliate Nick Ryan and colleagues have worked with policymakers in the highly industrialized Indian state of Gujarat to reduce emissions at low cost to industries. Now the team is expanding their work to implement a cap-and-trade market for carbon emissions from large sources. This series of studies – the first of its kind among today’s emerging economies, outside of China – is a collaboration of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, EGC, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL).In this episode of EGC Voices in Development, Ryan talks about the trade-offs low-and-middle income countries face between expanding access to energy, while also reducing the health and environmental costs of energy production. He says a critical role that development economists can play in supporting environmentally sustainable economic growth is to generate evidence on the impact different policy changes can have in order to inform decision-making. Nicholas Ryan is an Associate Professor of Economics at Yale University. He was a Prize Fellow in Economics at Harvard University from 2012-2014. He received a PhD in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012 and a BA in Economics summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. Ryan studies energy markets and environmental regulation in developing countries. Energy use enables high standards of living but rapid, energy-intensive growth has caused many environmental problems in turn. Ryan’s research measures how energy use and pollution emissions respond to regulation and market incentives. His work includes empirical studies of the effect of power grid capacity on electricity prices, how firms make decisions about energy-efficiency and how environmental regulation can be designed to best abate pollution at low social cost. Recent research studies the adoption and pricing of renewable energy in low- and middle-income countries.
Unraveling the impact of harmful social norms on development: Eliana La Ferrara, Samuel Moyn, and Rohini Pande on addressing hidden barriers to progress
Jul 10 2023
Unraveling the impact of harmful social norms on development: Eliana La Ferrara, Samuel Moyn, and Rohini Pande on addressing hidden barriers to progress
How do social norms – the set of informal rules, beliefs, and biases that govern behavior in a given group or society ­– affect the development process? While positive norms can support and accelerate development, harmful ones like slavery or female genital cutting can constrain it, exacerbating poverty and inequality. While social change in many high-income countries has reduced the prevalence of the most harmful norms over time, they continue to exist in many low- and middle-income countries, often preventing disadvantaged communities and groups from reaching their full potential.  In this episode of EGC Voices in Development, Rohini Pande is joined by Eliana La Ferrara and Samuel Moyn to discuss the “stickiness” of harmful social norms, both today and throughout history – and how changing such norms is often at the heart of the development challenge.Rohini Pande, Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director of EGC, frames the discussion by considering how research in development economics often approaches norms from the perspective of political economy, which often focuses on formal institutions. While this has generated important insights about the role and influence of formal institutions on economic development, it has focused less on how harmful norms can be perpetuated through informal institutions – such as marriage dynamics within individual households – and how these can impede development.Samuel Moyn, Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and History, notes that we can learn many lessons from historical examples of advocacy for social change. In the United States in the 19th century, for example, abolitionists confronted an entrenched set of political, social, and economic systems in their fight to abolish slavery. Moyn underscores the difficulties abolitionists faced in seeking to spark that change, and the radical shifts in social norms that were required.Eliana La Ferrara, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, draws on her research on female genital cutting in Sierra Leone and Somalia to analyze the role of social and cultural norms in economic development. She notes the cultural weight of the harmful practice in some cases, but has also noticed that the persistence of such practices often arises not from widely-held social beliefs, but the perception that these beliefs are widely held – a phenomenon in social psychology known as “pluralistic ignorance.” This wide-ranging discussion touches on many examples of harmful norms, both from history and today, and considers how they might be changed at the grassroots and broader levels. Indeed, a key challenge is embracing the notion that changing harmful norms can unlock development success.
Demystifying the effects of systemic injustice: Prof. Gerald Jaynes on using mixed methods to study race-based economic inequality
Jun 5 2023
Demystifying the effects of systemic injustice: Prof. Gerald Jaynes on using mixed methods to study race-based economic inequality
Almost 60 years after the passing of the Civil Rights Act in the US, race continues to determine patterns of income, wealth and opportunity. For Black Americans in particular, the predominance of exploitative practices such as sharecropping following the slave trade has enabled inequality to persist through a number of generations.In order to develop policies that tackle these injustices, what can economics or other disciplines reveal to us about past and present inequalities in societies with racial, ethnic, or caste-based hierarchies?"Even in that first book, I took great pains whenever I was describing things that were occurring to give it a comparative perspective... some obvious things like... the Emancipation in the Caribbean, which took place about 30 years earlier, and the transition problems they had there. But I also took some pains to talk about the development of different forms of agriculture in places like India and other parts of the world, because I thought that some of the events that are happening aren't strictly and solely because we're looking at former slaveholders faced off against their former slaves." – Gerald JaynesEconomist Gerald Jaynes, A. Whitney Griswold Professor of Economics, African American Studies, and Urban Studies and EGC affiliate, uses interdisciplinary research methods to aid his study of structural inequalities and Black agency in the United States. In this episode of Voices in Development, Jaynes discusses the domestic and international implications of his research, linking it to similar patterns in low- and middle- income countries.Gerald Jaynes earned his doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, 1976. He previously served as a legislative aide to State Senator Cecil A. Partee, President Pro-tem of the Illinois State Senate and as an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. His policy and public sector engagements include acting as the Study Director of the Committee On The Status of Black Americans at the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C. and Chairman of the New Haven, Ct. Minority Business Development Agency by Mayoral appointment. He has testified before the United States Congress on numerous occasions and served as a consultant to federal and local government agencies.
Breaking intergenerational cycles of deprivation and poverty: Orazio Attanasio and Costas Meghir on the transformative impact of early childhood interventions
May 10 2023
Breaking intergenerational cycles of deprivation and poverty: Orazio Attanasio and Costas Meghir on the transformative impact of early childhood interventions
Recent research has revealed how often life outcomes such as income, health, and wellbeing are set in the first few years of life. Parenting practices can foster positive gains in childhood development, but they may not be widely known or prioritized among poorer and marginalized groups in society, and millions of children around the world continue to face barriers that stop them reaching their potential. This often results in deprived home environments where poverty travels through generations in a cycle that is difficult to break. How can economic tools be used to identify and promote early childhood practices that help, rather than hinder, the economic development process?In this episode of Voices in Development, Orazio Attanasio and Costas Meghir, both Professors of Economics at Yale University and EGC affiliates, discuss their expanding body of work on the process of early childhood development, the difficulty of measuring childhood outcomes, and using economics to assess parenting interventions. Both researchers were drawn to this field by the realization that transformative development required interventions to take place at a much earlier stage of life, not just in adulthood. This month, Attanasio and Meghir have articles published in a multidisciplinary special issue of the journal Pediatrics, May 2023, which pays tribute to Professor Sally Grantham-McGregor and her extensive work calling attention to global early childhood development in low- and middle-income countries. The Jamaica Program initiative developed by Professor Grantham-McGregor, sought to foster more nurturing home environments during childhood and adolescence, a model that has since spread to many other initiatives across several countries including the Reach Up Early Childhood Parenting Programme.Attanasio and Meghir have used an interdisciplinary approach to build on the program’s initiated by Grantham-McGregor, exploring parenting style choices and cultural barriers to childhood development in countries such as Jamaica, Ghana, and India. Implementing a Randomized Controlled Trial for an NGO in Ghana called Lively Minds, which delivered childcare centers in rural villages, Attanasio and co-authors found that investing even a minimal amount of resources delivered good returns on early child development. Parenting practices are also another important facet of Attanasio and Meghir’s work. In Colombia, they have piloted interventions to address the fact that parents living in disadvantaged conditions often lack information about the usefulness of stimulating children through reading and play.  Orazio Attanasio received his PhD at the London School of Economics and has worked on a broad range of research topics including household consumption, saving and labour supply behavior and early years interventions. Before joining Yale in 2019 as a Professor of Economics he was the Jeremy Bentham Professor of Economics at University College London.Costas Meghir received his PhD in Economics from the University of Manchester and has conducted extensive research focused on informal labor markets, the economics of the family, and early childhood development. Prior to joining Yale in 2010 as a Professor Economics, he was a Professor of Economics and Head of Department at University College London.
Unpacking the complexities of labor market dynamics: Kevin Donovan on constraints to firm growth in low- and middle-income countries
Apr 10 2023
Unpacking the complexities of labor market dynamics: Kevin Donovan on constraints to firm growth in low- and middle-income countries
The upcoming 2023 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the IMF with its focus on “reshaping development for a new era” is an important reminder that systemic change does not happen overnight. Strong economic development requires adequate infrastructure, and individual access to markets and opportunities. However, many communities face social, environmental, and economic barriers that hobble development. Harsh landscapes and remote settings can constrain access to markets, and crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, food insecurity, and climate change can set back hard-earned gains in development. How can policymakers promote the conditions that overcome these constraints, and take advantage of the role of markets in transforming labor markets and catalyzing development?In this episode of Voices in Development, Kevin Donovan, Assistant Professor of Economics and Global Affairs and EGC affiliate, discusses his diverse body of recent work unpacking the conditions and tools needed for countries to make these market-driven transitions in an era of overlapping crises. Donovan has used macro and microeconomic models to explore knowledge transfers among Kenyan microenterprise owners, the implications of shifting labor market dynamics for policy, and the ability of last mile infrastructure such as pedestrian bridges to connect rural villages to cities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In collaboration with Bridges to Prosperity, Donovan’s insights into a bridge built in Nicaragua concluded that it not only gave villages crucial access to markets for better paid jobs, but also had spillover benefits from connecting people to schools and to hospitals.Recognizing that improving access to markets is just one component of the journey countries need to take to harness sustainable growth, Donovan’s work has used large datasets to explore the dynamics of labor markets in LMICs. While in some settings regular turnover in a labor market may be indicative of a healthy economy, the podcast explores how similar dynamics in poorer countries can reveal the insecurities present at the early stages of the job ladder.Our results in Nicaragua suggest there are big benefits to this type of last mile infrastructure. There are lots of margins that get affected by the same intervention, the same bridge that gets built. It's true that you get access to markets – which is great for selling your crops and getting access to higher paying jobs – but you're also connecting people to schools and hospitals. It turns out to be a pretty cost effective way to help people in rural areas.– Kevin DonovanKevin Donovan received his PhD in Economics from Arizona State University in 2013 and has since conducted extensive research on labor market access and firm growth in LMICs. He previously worked as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Notre Dame, and his work has been published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Development Economics, Review of Economic Studies, and Econometrica. He is a Faculty Affiliate of EGC, the Yale School of Management, and the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs.
Celebrating 73 years of the Indian constitution: Rohit De, Barkha Dutt, and Rohini Pande on the constitution’s history and role in women’s empowerment in India
Jan 24 2023
Celebrating 73 years of the Indian constitution: Rohit De, Barkha Dutt, and Rohini Pande on the constitution’s history and role in women’s empowerment in India
Every year on January 26th, India celebrates Republic Day – the day the Indian Constitution went into effect in 1950, after three years of drafting and debate by independent India’s first Constituent Assembly.  The Indian constitution outlined a vision of radical transformation. It established equality before the law for men and women – granting women the right to vote, prohibiting gender pay gaps, criminalizing gender-based discrimination, and creating provisions to protect the interests of women and children. Seventy three years later, how is the Indian constitution protecting women’s rights and advancing gender equality?In this episode of EGC Voices in Development, Rohit De, Barkha Dutt, and Rohini Pande examine how India’s Constitution has advanced the position of women, and where it has fallen short. This conversation is a special edition of Voices in Development, a podcast series from Yale’s Economic Growth Center exploring issues related to sustainable development and economic justice in low- and middle-income countries, with a group of inter-disciplinary experts coming together for the Yale Development Dialogues.Rohit De, a lawyer and Associate Professor of History at Yale with a focus on the legal history of the Indian subcontinent, describes the origins of how the Indian Constitution addresses women’s rights, how those rights balance private and public spheres, and how they interact with caste, class, and religion.“What does it mean for institutions to enter the domain of the family? Legislation in the bedroom is like a bull in a China shop.” - Rohit DeBarkha Dutt, one of India’s most prominent journalists, speaks about how the rights afforded to women in the constitution intersect with lived experiences of the women she’s spoken with in her reporting – especially the poor, survivors of sexual violence, and those marginalized during the Covid-19 pandemic.“I remember one point when the women's [affirmative action] legislation looked like it was going to go through, you had intersectional pushback from caste groups saying [it was] only going to benefit elite women. One politician… said, “this quota is only for… city-slicker urban women. It was, of course, a very misogynist statement, but it made us confront how complex the gender conversation is in India because sooner or later you will collide with caste identity, religious identity, class identity, and so on. I think when we look at women and the rights legally enshrined to protect them, it's a very paradoxical situation.” - Barkha DuttRohini Pande, Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Growth Center, draws on her research on women’s economic opportunity to discuss how India’s laws have succeeded in establishing certain safety nets and have failed to create others, especially with regard to women’s rights in the economy and the home.“While I think paid maternity leave is a good idea, the way it's implemented in India  tells companies they have a choice between expensive women and less expensive men. Even if you want companies to pay, you want them to pay a tax to the state and the state pays women so companies don't see this direct tradeoff between hiring women.” - Rohini PandeThis wide-ranging discussion touches on many aspects of women’s lives, including paid maternity leave, access to technology, freedom from harassment and violence, educational attainment – as well as broader economic trends in India such as the move away from an agriculture-based economy.“For most people, even... when you agree on very little else, if you say 'is this constitutional?' that still frames the boundaries of conversations in India. Even when you can't actually execute what the constitution looked ahead to, the constitution is always a document of hope. It's a document for what India could be.” - Barkha Dutt
Transforming the future of agricultural markets: Prof. Lauren Falcao Bergquist on using technology to combat food insecurity in East Africa
Dec 2 2022
Transforming the future of agricultural markets: Prof. Lauren Falcao Bergquist on using technology to combat food insecurity in East Africa
The global food system has been knocked off its axis by conflict, Covid-19, and climate change. Food prices have soared to record heights around the world, and lower-income countries face food shortages. As an economist with a focus on agricultural market research, Lauren Falcao Bergquist, Assistant Professor of Economics and Global Affairs and EGC affiliate, is motivated by her passion for improving the quality of life in the communities where she conducts her research. In this episode of Voices in Development, Bergquist emphasizes the criticality of research on both food supply and distribution, describing her work as centering around "how to get food from areas of surplus to areas of deficit, from times of plenty to times of need."Bergquist's interest in development economics was inspired by a summer she spent living in a rural village in Tanzania as a Stanford undergrad. She obtained her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley and has since conducted extensive research on trade, firm behavior and East African agricultural markets. As well as being an Affiliate at the Jameel Poverty Action Lab, Bergquist's work has been published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics and the American Economic Review, she is a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), and the Lead Academic for Rwanda at the International Growth Centre (IGC).
Understanding the backlash to globalization: Prof. Penny Goldberg on the complicated relationship between international trade, poverty reduction, and inequality
Sep 27 2022
Understanding the backlash to globalization: Prof. Penny Goldberg on the complicated relationship between international trade, poverty reduction, and inequality
Once embraced as a pathway to global prosperity, globalization has come under attack in recent years. International trade has decreased inequality between nations, but at the cost of sometimes increasing inequalities within nations. As countries try to deal with the unequal benefits of trade by turning to protectionism, how can global coordination and poverty reduction be sustained? Pinelopi (Penny) Koujianou Goldberg – Elihu Professor of Economics and Global Affairs at Yale and an EGC affiliate – explores these subjects in her upcoming monograph. For globalization and trade to be welcomed, Goldberg says, “redistribution has to go hand-in-hand with trade liberalization.”Goldberg’s path into economics was heavily influenced by her upbringing in Greece during the 1970s, as increasing trade flows played an important role in the country’s transition to a middle- and then high-income economy. She went on to serve as Chief Economist at the World Bank Group, taking her academic career into the world of policy. Goldberg is a leading microeconomist on trade and development and her work has been published in Econometrica, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the American Economic Review and the Review of Economic Studies, among other journals. She delivered the Ohlin Lecture in Stockholm in 2019, and her monograph “The Unequal Effects of Globalization”, based on that talk and other research, will be published in 2023.
Training the Next Generation of African Economists: Prof. Leonard Wantchekon on the university he founded
May 17 2022
Training the Next Generation of African Economists: Prof. Leonard Wantchekon on the university he founded
As African nations take on new economic challenges and seek new development opportunities, their success will rely in part on an essential, often overlooked resource: African economists.To help provide future economists with the training they will need and to support African students in pursuing policy-relevant economic research as a process of ‘self-discovery’, Princeton University professor Leonard Wantchekon is working to build the African School of Economics in his home country of Benin. It’s just one of the many institutions that Wantchekon sees as critical to the equitable development of the African continent.The African School of Economics currently offers master’s degrees in mathematics, economics, statistics, and business administration, as well as a Ph.D. in economics. To expand its reach globally, the school has lined up a dozen academic partners, including Princeton. ASE also plans to open campuses in East Africa and West Africa, with the goal of serving upwards of 15,000 students.This fall, ASE will expand its reach with the establishment of a new campus in Nigeria, building on current locations in Benin, Cote d’Ivoire and affiliations in New York city and Princeton, NJ.Wantchekon’s own career in development economics was shaped in part by his experience as a pro-democracy student activist under a military regime in Benin in the 1970s and 80s. Since then, he has made ground-breaking research contributions on topics as diverse as the long-term effects of education, political distortions and public deliberation, and the slave trade’s impact on trust in West Africa. Media coverage of his research has appeared in Financial Times, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Economist and BBC, among others.