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My research is in applied microeconomics with a strong emphasis on development economics. 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 staff satisfaction and retention as well as 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, which I study 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 main 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 during the gradual introduction of new contracts features for their employees, which allows us to learn about the importance of particular contract features: performance pay and rotation policies, for effort, retention, and satisfaction.

In another ongoing project I study decision making mechanisms in farmer groups in Malawi. This project connects to the literature on community driven development and deliberative decision making processes. As part of a group decision on an investment, farmers were invited to speak and make suggestions in a randomized order. We examine whether and how this artificially given "voice" impacts suggestions, participation and decision outcomes. In earlier related work I examined the role of electoral rules (secret ballot vs. public discussion) for the outcome of elections in the context of savings and loans (self help) groups in northern Uganda.

More generally, questions related to poverty and inequality are what led me to pursue a career in economics. I am developing my research scope by studying such questions not only in low-income countries. I have recent work on barriers to graduation in vocational technical colleges in an OECD country. 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 allowed us to study the causal effect of deadlines on project completion and diploma rates. A companion project studies the effect of a rapid transition to online learning on learning outcomes and dropout in the same setting.

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