Publications

Below you find brief presentations of academic and non-academic contributions of ecol staff members. A bibliographic list of publications of ecol staff members can be found here.

Research Highlight
The Intensive Margin of Technology Adoption – Experimental Evidence on Improved Cooking Stoves in Rural Senegal, published 2015 in Journal of Health Economics

This study evaluates the impacts of simple improved cookstoves on the livelihood of rural people. The results show that even relatively simple improved cooking stoves can trigger significant positive effects as long as they are adapted to local cooking habits.

  • Research on impacts of rural electrification, with a focus on households as beneficiaries

    Electrification interventions have been an important pillar in infrastructure development in developing countries throughout the last 60 years. Energy is seen as a critical component, if not prerequisite, for economic development and the alleviation of poverty in terms of such diverse manifestations as deprived health, education, and livelihoods in general. However, there is still little empirical evidence to substantiate these impact pathways. Against this background, we investigated the impacts of electrification on households as the ultimate beneficiaries in a series of articles.

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Are promotion programs needed to establish off-grid solar energy markets? Evidence from rural Burkina Faso, published 2018 in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews

Off-grid solar electric power is a promising technology for remote regions in rural Africa where expansion of the electricity grids is prohibitively expensive. Using household data from a target region of an off-grid solar promotion program in the Kénédougou province in Burkina Faso, this paper explores the role of quality-verified branded solar home systems (SHS) versus non-branded ones. We find that the adoption rate of non-branded SHS is considerably higher at 36% compared to 8% for branded SHS. We compare potential quality differences as well as the cost-effectiveness of branded and non-branded solar products. We show that non-branded SHSs offer a similar service level as branded solar, that they do not fall behind in terms of consumer satisfaction and durability, and that non-branded products are more cost-effective. These findings suggest that promotion programs and branded solar products do not seem to be necessary in Burkina Faso and might also not be needed to establish sustainable off-grid solar markets elsewhere provided that non-branded products are available. The challenge however is to reach the very poor who are unable to bring up investment costs for any electricity.
Bensch, G., Grimm, M., Huppertz, M., Langbein, J., & Peters, J. (2018). Are promotion programs needed to establish off-grid solar energy markets? Evidence from rural Burkina Faso. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 90: 1060-1068.
Full paper for subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
A First Step up the Energy Ladder? Low Cost Solar Kits and Household’s Welfare in Rural Rwanda, published 2017 in World Bank Economic Review
More than 1.1 billion people in developing countries are lacking access to electricity. Based on the assumption that electricity is a prerequisite for human development, the United Nations has proclaimed the goal of providing electricity to all by 2030. In recent years, Pico-Photovoltaic kits have become a low-cost alternative to investment intensive grid electrification. Using a randomized controlled trial, we examine uptake and impacts of a simple Pico-Photovoltaic kit that barely exceeds the modern energy benchmark defined by the United Nations. We find significant positive effects on household energy expenditures and some indication for effects on health, domestic productivity, and on the environment. Since only parts of these effects are internalized, underinvestment into the technology is likely. In addition, our data show that adoption will be impeded by affordability, suggesting that policy would have to consider more direct promotion strategies such as subsidies or financing schemes to reach the UN goal.
Grimm, M., Munyehirwe, A., Peters, J., & Sievert, M. (2017). A First Step up the Energy Ladder? Low Cost Solar Kits and Household’s Welfare in Rural Rwanda. World Bank Economic Review, 31(3): 631-649.
Full paper for subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
Television and Contraceptive Use – A Weak Signal?, published 2014 in Journal of Development Studies
In recent years, rural electrification and access to television have spread throughout the developing world. The values and cultural norms embodied in television programming have potentially profound implications for influencing behaviour, including reproductive decisions. After replicating Westoff and Koffman’s (2011) finding of a positive correlation between television ownership and contraception using pooled Indonesian data, we proceed to estimate a fixed-effects model. The coefficient on television loses its significance while other policy relevant variables retain theirs. We conclude that the growing corpus of cross-sectional evidence on a link between television and contraception should be interpreted cautiously.
Peters, J., Strupat, C., & Vance, C. (2014). Television and Contraceptive Use – A Weak Signal? Journal of Development Studies, 50(11), 1538-1549.
Full paper for subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
Fear of the Dark? How Access to Electric Lighting Affects Security Attitudes and Nighttime Activities in Rural Senegal, published 2013 in Journal of Rural and Comunity Development
Providing access to electricity is widely considered a precondition for socio-economic improvement in rural areas of developing countries. While electrification interventions are often expected to reduce poverty through their application in income generating purposes (business), the reality of rural usage patterns suggests a different actuality, with electricity being used for lighting and entertainment devices only. It is particularly lighting, with its implications for security and convenience, which explains the importance assigned to electrification. This paper investigates the effects of Solar Home System (SHS) electricity usage on lighting consumption and activities after nightfall, applying cross-sectional household-level data from rural Senegal. We apply a new matching algorithm to control for a possible self-selection into SHS ownership and find substantially higher lighting usage and study time for school children after nightfall. We also find some indication for improvements in perceived security.
Bensch, G., Peters, J., & Sievert, M. (2013). Fear of the Dark? How Access to Electric Lighting Affects Security Attitudes and Nighttime Activities in Rural Senegal. Journal of Rural and Comunity Development, 8(1), 1–19.
Full paper open access (external link)
Impacts of Rural Electrification in Rwanda, published 2011 in Journal of Development Effectiveness
Rural electrification is believed to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. In this paper, we investigate electrification impacts on different indicators. We use household data that we collected in Rwanda in villages with and without electricity access. We account for self-selection and regional differences by using households from the electrified villages to estimate the probability to connect for all households – including those in the non-electrified villages. Based on these probabilities we identify counterfactual households and find robust evidence for positive effects on lighting usage. Effects on income and children’s home studying become insignificant if regional differences are accounted for.
Bensch, G., Kluve, J., & Peters, J. (2011). Impacts of Rural Electrification in Rwanda. Journal of Development Effectiveness, 3(4), 567–588. doi:10.1080/19439342.2011.621025
Full paper (external link)
Working paper (external link)
Rural Electrification and Fertility – Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire, published 2011 in Journal of Development Studies
Using household-level survey data from Côte d’Ivoire, this paper investigates the determinants of fertility with a particular focus on the effect of electrification. Based on a Poisson regression model, our analysis suggests a highly significant relationship between fertility and electricity, but one that is only revealed when the model distinguishes between rural and urban areas. Specifically, we find a positive association between electricity and fertility for urban households, contrasted by a negative relationship for rural households. This dichotomy is suggested to reflect the influences of electricity in facilitating child care, offset by its modernising impacts through the provision of information.
Peters, J., & Vance, C. (2011). Rural Electrification and Fertility – Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire. Journal of Development Studies, 47(5), 753–766. doi:10.1080/00220388.2010.527954
Full paper for ScienceDirect subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
  • Research on impacts of electrification, with a focus on productive use

    Expectations among practitioners in electrification projects as well as energy experts in international cooperation partner countries and donor organisations are particularly high related to the benefits of what is referred to as the productive use of electricity: Electricity is seen as a crucial means to remove barriers on the local level that hamper economic growth and thereby also as a key for the sustainability of other poverty-alleviating impacts of electrification projects. However, there is still little empirical evidence to substantiate these impact pathways. Against this background, we investigated the impacts of productive electricity use in a series of articles.

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Impacts of a Micro-Enterprise Clustering Program on Firm Performance in Ghana, published 2015 in European Journal of Development Research
Widely considered an important backbone of economies in developing countries, micro- and small enterprises face several growth constraints. The creation of industrial zones (IZs) with improved access to infrastructure and secure land tenure is a potential remedy to promote local economic development. We assess the effects of an intervention on business performance indicators that establishes IZs for micro-enterprises in Ghana based on firm-level data on 227 enterprises. The results show that the establishment of IZs leads to the creation of new firms, but for existing firms that relocated to the IZs the effects on firm performance are negative.
Peters, J., Sievert, M., & Strupat, C. (2015). Impacts of a Micro-Enterprise Clustering Program on Firm Performance in Ghana. European Journal of Development Research, 27(1): 99-121. doi: 10.1057/ejdr.2014.18
Full paper for subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
Impact Evaluation of Productive Use—An Implementation Guideline for Electrification Projects, published 2012 in Energy Policy
There is a consensus in the international community that rural electrification and, in particular, the productive use of electricity contributes to poverty alleviation. At the same time, efforts to evaluate the impacts of development projects have increased substantially. This paper provides a hands-on guide for designing evaluation studies regarding the impacts of productive electricity usage. Complementary to the existing literature on evaluation methods, this guide familiarizes project managers with the concrete steps that have to be undertaken to plan and implement an evaluation. The guide comprises three modules based on enterprise surveys and on anecdotal case studies. For each module, the implementation is described on a step-by-step basis including conceptual issues as well as logistics and methodological questions.
Bensch, G., Peters, J., & Schmidt, C. M. (2012). Impact Evaluation of Productive Use—An Implementation Guideline for Electrification Projects. Energy Policy, 40(1), 186–195. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.09.034
Full paper for ScienceDirect subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
Grid Extension in Rural Benin: Micro-Manufacturers and the Electrification Trap, published 2011 in World Development
Productive electricity use is widely believed to contribute to positive impacts of electrification projects. This paper investigates these impacts by comparing the performance of micro manufacturing enterprises in grid-covered and non-covered villages in Northern Benin. Using firm-level data, the analysis employs Propensity Score Matching techniques to measure differences in profits according to a grid-connection. Although beneficial impacts are found from firm creation following electrification, firms that existed before electrification perform no better than their matched counterparts from a non-electrified region. Complementary measures that sensitize firms about the implications of a grid connection are recommended as important features of program design.
Peters, J., Vance, C., & Harsdorff, M. (2011). Grid Extension in Rural Benin: Micro-Manufacturers and the Electrification Trap. World Development, 39(5), 773–783. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2010.09.015
Full paper for ScienceDirect subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
Electricity Usage in Micro-enterprises — Evidence from Lake Victoria, Uganda, published 2011 in Energy for Sustainable Development
This paper aims to shed light on the nexus of electricity, firm performance, and economic development in a dynamic rural area in Southern Uganda. Using quantitative firm-level data on 200 micro-enterprises complemented by qualitative case studies we find that modern energy increases the importance of electricity-using capital and alters the sectoral distribution of economic activities. By contrast, we find no evidence for an expansionary effect of electrification on firm profits or worker remuneration. In fact, many entrepreneurs consider the direct gain from connecting to the grid to be small. Qualitative information, however, suggests that a positive indirect impact of electrification on firm performance is induced by the overall expansive effect electrification has on local demand. The demand increase can be partly assigned to people moving into the electrified community from surrounding non-electrified areas. We conclude that if productive energy promotion policies are put in place they should address drawing up thorough business plans to enable local entrepreneurs to take informed connection and investment decisions.
Neelsen, S., & Peters, J. (2011). Electricity Usage in Micro-enterprises — Evidence from Lake Victoria, Uganda. Energy for Sustainable Development, 15(1), 21–31. doi:10.1016/j.esd.2010.11.003
Full paper for ScienceDirect subscribers only (external link)
Impacts of Electricity Usage on Micro-enterprises in Peri-urban Ghana, published 2011 in Journal of Social and Economic Policy
Peters, J., Sievert, M., & Vance, C. (2011). Impacts of Electricity Usage on Micro-enterprises in Peri-urban Ghana. Journal of Social and Economic Policy, 8(1), 55–70.
Available upon request.
  • Research on infrastructure in more general terms

    Beyond specifically addressing the impacts of electrification on households or enterprises, we studied issues on access to infrastructure in a number of further articles.

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A Methodological Framework to address Gaps in the Evidence on Infrastructure Impacts: The Case of an Indian Railway Project Evaluation, published 2019 in the Journal of Economic Methodology
Infrastructure is a key area of public investment and development cooperation, and can be seen as a critical enabler of trade and integration. Stakeholders increasingly demand evidence on the effectiveness of investments in infrastructure such as railways, in part because these investments typically lock in development patterns for decades. In this article we take stock of the main findings, methodological approaches, gaps and caveats of the current literature with a focus on railways. Based on this analysis, we present a methodology for an impact evaluation framework which builds on existing knowledge and addresses some of these shortcomings. Beyond the dearth of empirical evidence on the socio-economic and environmental impacts of infrastructure, we discuss critiques of the currently prevalent methodological toolbox. Using a real-world railway project in India, the Konkan Railway, we exemplify how a rigorous quantitative impact assessment can integrate inter-disciplinary and mixed-methods features to address these issues. Specifically, we apply different quasi-experimental techniques on the level of intermediate and ultimate outcome and impact indicators, using census, survey and satellite data and information from document analyses, interviews and focus group discussions. We draw on insights from economics, sociology, engineering and geography in making sense of large infrastructure projects and their impacts.
Jaiswal, S. & Bensch, G. (2019). A Methodological Framework to address Gaps in the Evidence on Infrastructure Impacts: The Case of an Indian Railway Project Evaluation. Journal of Economic Methodology, 26(1), 32–44. doi:10.1080/1350178X.2018.1561073
Full paper for subscribers only (external link)
Does Large-Scale Infrastructure Investment Alleviate Poverty? Impacts of Rwanda’s Electricity Access Roll-Out Program, published 2017 in World Development
The objective of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All) is to provide electricity by 2030 to the 1.1 billion people in developing countries that hitherto lack access. The OECD/IEA quantifies the investment requirements of this to be at 640 billion USD. Little evidence exists on socio-economic impacts of electrification. The present paper is the first to causally investigate the effects of electrification in Africa on all beneficiary groups. The electrification program under research, the Rwandan Electricity Access Role-Out Program (EARP), is one of the largest in the world. Our analysis is based on a panel of 974 households, a full-census survey among health centers, and qualitative surveys among 83 micro-enterprises and 50 schools. We find that EARP has been remarkably effective in increasing the connection numbers among all beneficiary types. Around 3.5 years after electrification, the quantity of consumed electricity and the uptake of appliances, though, remain low. Noteworthy impacts are decreasing energy expenditures and a considerable reduction in dry-cell battery consumption with potential environmental benefits. Beyond this, electricity mostly facilitates people’s life, but there is only weak evidence for impacts on classical poverty indicators such as income, health, and education. We conclude by calling for more research on the comparison of on-grid and off-grid electrification with respect to impact potentials, costs, and people’s willingness to pay in order to inform the way forward within the SE4All endeavor.
Lenz, L., Munyehirwe, A., Peters, J., & Sievert, M. (2017). Does Large-Scale Infrastructure Investment Alleviate Poverty? Impacts of Rwanda’s Electricity Access Roll-Out Program. World Development, 89, 88–110.
Full paper for subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
The Lighting Transition in Rural Africa — From Kerosene to Battery-powered LED and the Emerging Disposal Problem, published 2017 in Energy for Sustainable Development
People without electricity access, numbering today more than 500 million in rural Africa alone, have been using dim and sooty kerosene lamps and candles for their lighting purposes for decades. In the present paper, current lighting usage patterns are systematically assessed using detailed new survey data from seven countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. The data makes evident that a transition has taken place in recent years, both unnoticed by and without external support from governmental or non-governmental organizations: the rural population without electricity in Africa has replaced kerosene lights and candles by simple, yet more efficient and cleaner LED lamps powered by non-rechargeable batteries. Nevertheless, we also show that the discharged batteries are generally disposed of inappropriately in latrines or the nature. The toxic content of many dry-cell batteries and their accumulation at local litter hotspots may have harmful repercussions on health and the environment. We conclude by suggesting that rapid action is needed to, first, install an effective monitoring system on batteries that enter the continent and, second, put in place an appropriate waste management system.
Bensch, G., J. Peters & M. Sievert (2017). The lighting transition in rural Africa — From kerosene to battery-powered LED and the emerging disposal problem. Energy for Sustainable Development, 39, 13-20.
Full paper for subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
Evaluating Rural Electrification Projects: Methodological Approaches, published 2009 in Well-Being and Social Policy
In recent years, the international community has expanded efforts in program evaluation to improve the accountability of development projects. This paper presents approaches to implementing state of the art evaluations in rural electrification projects, taking into account specific challenges that researchers face in such interventions. It suggests an approach to assess impacts before an intervention is implemented by surveying the yet non-electrified target region of the project and, in addition, an already electrified region. Besides delivering robust evidence on impacts, results from such ex-ante evaluations deliver insights for the project design, thereby reducing the gap between evaluation researchers and practitioners.
Peters, J. (2009). Evaluating Rural Electrification Projects: Methodological Approaches. Well-Being and Social Policy, 5(2), 25–40.
Full paper open access (external link)
  • Research on impacts of improved cooking stoves

    More than a third of the world’s population relies on traditional cooking with woodfuels, mostly in developing countries, causing financial and workload burdens on households as well as detrimental implications for people’s health and the environment. Efficiency-enhancing improved biomass cooking stoves (ICS) have long been the evident instrument to simultaneously counter these adverse aspects induced by traditional cooking. In a series of articles, we evaluated the socio-economic and environmental impacts of ICS.

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Enablers of Strong Cookstove Sales through a Purchase Offer Approach in Rural Senegal – An Explorative Analysis, published 2017 in Boiling Point
This article outlines the main results of a study in rural Senegal where households were invited to purchase simple improved biomass cookstoves in their villages. Households’ stove purchases and willingness to pay levels turned out to be unexpectedly high considering that the stoves are generally available in the area and at least part of the study sample households were already exposed to the specific stove type before. We therefore conducted an explorative analysis of potential factors that may have triggered the high degree of sales. In particular, aspects of the applied mode of stove delivery and the specific interview situation are assessed. This serves to derive insights into potential intervention design and communication approaches for entry-level improved stoves, which are likely transferable to higher-tier modern energy access technologies as well.
Bensch, G., & Peters, J. (2017). Enablers of Strong Cookstove Sales through a Purchase Offer Approach in Rural Senegal – An Explorative Analysis. Boiling Point, 69, 6-9.
Full paper (external link)
Outdoor cooking prevalence in developing countries and its implication for clean cooking policies, published 2017 in Environmental Research Letters
More than 3 billion people use wood fuels for their daily cooking needs, with detrimental health implications related to smoke emissions. Best practice global initiatives emphasize the dissemination of clean cooking stoves, but these are often expensive and suffer from interrupted supply chains that do not reach rural areas. This emphasis neglects that many households in the developing world cook outdoors. Our calculations suggest that for such households, the use of less expensive biomass cooking stoves can substantially reduce smoke exposure. The cost-effectiveness of clean cooking policies can thus be improved by taking cooking location and ventilation into account.
Langbein, J., Peters, J., & (2017). Outdoor cooking prevalence in developing countries and its implication for clean cooking policies. Environmental Research Letters, 12, 11508.
Full paper (external link)
The Intensive Margin of Technology Adoption – Experimental Evidence on Improved Cooking Stoves in Rural Senegal, published 2015 in Journal of Health Economics
Today, almost 3 billion people in developing countries rely on biomass as primary cooking fuel, with profound negative implications for their well-being. Improved biomass cooking stoves are alleged to counteract these adverse effects. This paper evaluates take-up and impacts of low-cost improved stoves through a randomized controlled trial. The randomized stove is primarily designed to curb firewood consumption, but not smoke emissions. Nonetheless, we find considerable effects not only on firewood consumption, but also on smoke exposure and, consequently, smoke-related disease symptoms. The reduced smoke exposure results from behavioural changes in terms of increased outside cooking and a reduction in cooking time. We conclude that in order to assess the effectiveness of a technology-oriented intervention, it is critical to not only account for the incidence of technology adoption – the extensive margin – but also for the way the new technology is used – the intensive margin.
Bensch, G., & Peters, J. (2015). The Intensive Margin of Technology Adoption – Experimental Evidence on Improved Cooking Stoves in Rural Senegal. Journal of Health Economics, 42, 44-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2015.03.006
Full paper for ScienceDirect subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
Why Do Households Forego High Returns from Technology Adoption? Evidence from Improved Cook Stoves in Burkina Faso, published 2015 in Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Around 3 billion people in developing countries rely on woodfuels for their daily cooking needs with profound negative implications for their workload, health, and budget as well as the environment. Improved cooking stove (ICS) technologies appear to be an obvious solution in many cases. In spite of great efforts made by the international community to disseminate ICSs, take-up rates in most developing countries are strikingly low. In this paper, we examine the reasons for (non-)adoption of a very simple ICS in urban Burkina Faso. As a first result, we find that ICS users need between 20 and 30 percent less firewood compared to traditional stoves, making the investment a very profitable one. Nonetheless, adoption rates are a mere 10 percent. The major deterrent to adoption is the upfront investment costs, which are much more important than access to information, taste preferences, or the woman’s role in the household. These findings suggest that more direct promotion strategies such as subsidies would help households to overcome liquidity constraints, and would hence improve adoption rates.
Bensch, G., Grimm, M., & Peters, J. (2015). Why Do Households Forego High Returns from Technology Adoption? Evidence from Improved Cook Stoves in Burkina Faso. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 116, 187–205. doi: 10.1016/j.jebo.2015.04.023
Full paper for ScienceDirect subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
Alleviating Deforestation Pressures? Impacts of Improved Stove Dissemination on Charcoal Consumption in Urban Senegal, published 2013 in Land Economics
With 2.7 billion people relying on woodfuel for cooking in developing countries, the dissemination of improved cooking stoves (ICSs) is frequently considered an effective instrument to combat deforestation, particularly in arid countries. This paper evaluates the impacts of an ICS dissemination project in urban Senegal on charcoal consumption, using data collected among 624 households. The virtue of our data is that it allows for rigorously estimating charcoal savings by accounting for both household characteristics and meal-specific cooking patterns. We find average savings of 25% per dish. In total, the intervention reduces Senegalese charcoal consumption by around 1%.
Bensch, G., & Peters, J. (2013). Alleviating Deforestation Pressures? Impacts of Improved Stove Dissemination on Charcoal Consumption in Urban Senegal. Land Economics, 89(4), 676–698. doi: 10.1353/lde.2013.0037
Full paper for MUSE subscribers only (external link)
Working paper with considerable differences to Full paper version (external link)
Improved Cooking Stoves that End up in Smoke?, published 2012 as RWI Position
More than 2.7 billion people in developing countries rely on biomass for cooking with profound implications for their well-being. Two million people die every year due to cooking related smoke emissions – more than are killed by malaria. In recent years, an international movement has gained momentum on the level of the United Nations that intends to combat this plight by the dissemination of improved cooking stoves. A recent study conducted by Hanna, Duflo and Greenstone based on a field experiment in India has attracted much attention, also in the popular press. It does not confirm the optimistic results on the impacts of improved cooking stoves that hitherto can be found in the literature. Editorial notes in newspapers like the New York Times took up findings from the study and vehemently criticized the international efforts to improve access to cleaner cooking fuels as ineffective. The present RWI Positionen policy paper argues that this journalistic verdict is premature and that the results of the study are overstressed. While the study is in principle a meaningful contribution to the improved stoves literature, its findings are very specific to the local environment in which it was conducted and as we argue the insights can barely be transferred to other areas in the developing world.
Grimm, M. & Peters, J. (2012). Improved Cooking Stoves that End up in Smoke? RWI Positionen, 52. Essen: RWI.
Position paper (external link)
  • Further research

    In a couple of further articles, we studied further aspects related to development economics, infrastructure and impact evaluation.

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Generalization in the Tropics – Development Policy, Randomized Controlled Trials, and External Validity, published 2018 in the World Bank Research Observer
When properly implemented, Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) achieve a high degree of internal validity. Yet, if an RCT is to inform policy, it is critical to establish external validity. This paper systematically reviews all RCTs conducted in developing countries and published in leading economic journals between 2009 and 2014 with respect to how they deal with external validity. Following Duflo, Glennerster, and Kremer (2008), we scrutinize the following hazards to external validity: Hawthorne effects, general equilibrium effects, specific sample problems, and special care in treatment provision. Based on a set of objective indicators, we find that the majority of published RCTs does not discuss these hazards and many do not provide the necessary information to assess potential problems. The paper calls for including external validity dimensions in a more systematic reporting on the results of RCTs. This may create incentives to avoid overgeneralizing findings and help policy makers to interpret results appropriately.
Peters, J., Langbein, J., & Roberts, G. (2018). Generalization in the Tropics – Development Policy, Randomized Controlled Trials, and External Validity. World Bank Research Observer, 90: 34-64.
Full paper for subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
Accidents caused by kerosene lamps—New evidence from African household data, published 2018 in WIREs Energy and Environment
The use of kerosene for lighting, cooking, and heating in developing countries is often considered a major health threat as it can cause accidents like thermal injuries, poisonings, fires, or explosions. The evidence to prove this is extremely scarce, though. The present paper is one of the first to investigate the link between kerosene‐based lighting and accidents at the household level. We use survey data from 3,326 nonelectrified households in Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Senegal, and Zambia and observe very heterogeneous kerosene lamp usage rates. In some regions, accidents with kerosene lamps occur in a substantial share of the population, but the absolute incidence is rather low.
Lenz, L., Montenbruck, L. & Sievert, M. (2018). Accidents Caused by Kerosene Lamps—New Evidence from African Household Data. WIREs Energy and Environment, 7(4). doi:10.1002/wene.293
Full paper for subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
Infrastructure and Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa – A Review, published 2017 in Journal of Development Studies.
This paper reviews the book “Infrastructure and Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa” by Antonio Estache and Quentin Wodon. The authors summarize the political debate on infrastructure policy in Africa in a very compelling and knowledgeable way and make a convincing case for pro-poor subsidies. Yet, this review points out two reservations: The evidence on the welfare enhancing benefits of infrastructure investments is less conclusive than suggested in the book. The book also misses out on the recent technological developments that enable the provision of decentralized services, which might render classical network based infrastructure partly redundant in the future.
Peters, J. (2017). Infrastructure and Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa – A Review. Journal of Development Studies, 53 (3), 460-462.
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Working paper (external link)
Policy evaluation, randomized controlled trials, and external validity—A systematic review, published 2016 in Economics Letters
This paper reviews all Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) published in leading economic journals between 2009 and 2014 with respect to how they deal with potential hazards to external validity: Hawthorne and John-Henry effects, general equilibrium effects, specific sample problems, and special care in treatment provision. We find that the majority of published RCTs does not discuss these hazards and many do not provide the necessary information to assess potential problems.
Peters, J., Langbein, J. & Roberts, G. (2016). Policy evaluation, randomized controlled trials, and external validity—A systematic review. Economics Letters, 147, 51-54. doi: 10.1016/j.econlet.2016.08.013
Full paper for ScienceDirect subscribers only (external link)
Working paper (external link)
Preferences over Bank and Family Loans in Rural Rwanda, published 2016 in Journal of International Development
We study borrowers’ preferences over bank and family loans based on field work undertaken in rural Rwanda. We randomly assigned willingness-to-pay questions for a hypothetical loan offer either by a bank or by a family member to a sample of 480 households. Informal family loans are typically easier to access. Because of the social costs they imply, it is widely believed that family finance is less attractive than formal finance. Our empirical results, however, show no significant difference in preferences over these two choices. This suggests that even if formal credits were widely accessible, people would still also utilize informal finance.
Peters, J., Schoofs, A. & Sievert, M. (2016). Preferences over Bank and Family Loans in Rural Rwanda. Journal of International Development, 28(4), 623-630. doi:10.1002/jid.3217
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Working paper (external link)
Von Staaten, Märkten und Subventionen – Paradigmenwechsel in der Armutsbekämpfung?, published 2015 in List Forum für Wirtschafts- und Finanzpolitik
Dieses Papier beleuchtet die Diskussion um Gestaltung und Wirksamkeit der bisherigen Entwicklungspolitik und liefert einen Ausblick für ihre Zukunft. Besondere Aufmerksamkeit erhält dabei die Rolle des Marktes in der Armutsbekämpfung auf der einen Seite und die des Staates und öffentlicher Subventionen auf der anderen. Am aktuellen Rand verläuft die Demarkationslinie in der entwicklungspolitischen Diskussion entlang der klassischen Lager von angebots- und nachfrageseitiger Wirtschaftspolitik. Während die eine Seite für massive Subventionen zur Armutsreduktion wirbt, sieht die andere darin eher die Ursache für verzerrende Effekte und schlägt die Bildung von Institutionen vor, die insbesondere marktwirtschaftliche Aktivitäten ermöglichen. Jenseits dieser zum Teil sehr ideologischen Debatte schließt sich dieses Papier dem sogenannten Dritten Weg an und argumentiert für ein neues Paradigma in der Armutsbekämpfung: Die wirksamsten Ansätze sollen durch evidenzbasierte wissenschaftliche Begleitung identifiziert und dann ausgeweitet werden. Am Ende eines solchen Paradigmenwechsels würde im Idealfall eine neue Form der erfolgsbasierten Konditionalität stehen.
Peters, J. (2015). Von Staaten, Märkten und Subventionen – Paradigmenwechsel in der Armutsbekämpfung? List Forum für Wirtschafts- und Finanzpolitik, 41(1), 45-52. doi: 10.1007/s41025-015-0002-6
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Working paper (external link)
Inside the Metrics – An Empirical Comparison of Energy Poverty Indices for Sub-Saharan Countries, available as Ruhr Economic Paper
With the ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ initiative led by the UN and World Bank, the provision of access to modern energy has recently been brought to the top of the international development agenda. However, there is yet little guidance on how to measure modern energy access or its deprivation, energy poverty. This paper discusses five energy poverty measurement approaches and compares their results empirically using a unique household dataset on five sub-Saharan countries. Due to a broad coverage of energy-related issues, this dataset accommodates the data requirements imposed by all metrics. The metrics turn out to perform quite differently in terms of the identification of the energy poor, sensitivities to parameter changes and data requirements. Based on the empirical findings, recommendations are made on essential features of the metrics to support the ambitious goals set out by the ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ initiative.
Bensch, G. (2013). Inside the Metrics – An Empirical Comparison of Energy Poverty Indices for Sub-Saharan Countries. Ruhr Economic Papers, 464. doi:10.4419/86788524
Working paper (external link)