My research is in development economics with a strong emphasis on field work and field experiments. In one part of my research agenda I study microfinance markets, where I examine how loans can be made to be more conducive to business development and how the incentives of loan officers shape lending activities. My other main area of focus is questions of political economy, such as collective action problems and decision-making procedures that determine service delivery, through the lens of development programs.
My research approach primarily relies on the design, implementation, and analysis of randomized field experiments. The experiments are large, typically with thousands of participants. Rather than evaluating the overall impact of a program, I design the treatments and data collection in ways that allow me to determine mechanisms and test theories, in order to learn lessons that to go beyond the immediate context of a specific program.
In terms of geographical focus, my research is focused on East Africa, primarily Uganda, where I have implemented several projects with the collaboration of one of the world's largest NGOs and microfinance providers, BRAC. By spending substantial periods of time in the field, I have built a network and gained the trust of the organization to design experiments that take place within the context of their existing program activities, thereby enhancing external validity and policy relevance. Earlier projects have focused on the effect of loan contract structure on borrowing and investment decisions of small firms. In two projects that are now work in progress, I collaborated with BRAC and introduce variation in the contracts of their employees, which allows me to learn about the importance of particular contract features: performance pay and rotation policies, for effort and contract compliance.
More generally, questions related to poverty and inequality are what led me to pursue a career in economics. Going forward, I am developing my research scope by studying such questions not only in low-income countries, but also in the context of the OECD. An example of this is my ongoing work on barriers to graduation in vocational technical colleges in Israel. Specifically, we study the effect of task deadlines and focus on a task that was identified as the major obstacle for meeting diploma requirements: the "final project", and introduce experimental variation in whether deadlines are used. It has been suggested that pre-set deadlines for a task can serve as a commitment device and help individuals overcome procrastination, thereby increasing the probability of task completion. Our design allows us to study the causal effect of deadlines on project completion and diploma rates.