UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Research Interest Statement

In my research I use microeconomic theory and econometrics to examine the performance of rural factor markets in developing countries in order to better understand how households accumulate and allocate their resources and to suggest policy that can both enhance efficiency and reduce inequality. My conceptual framework draws on the economics of information and institutional economics. This combined framework acknowledges the centrality of information asymmetries in determining the nature of rural contracts and institutions and, ultimately, how households make investment and resource allocation decisions.

A primary strand of my research has focused on understanding the structure of rural credit markets and the relationship between credit market structure and the efficiency and equity of rural development. In 1993, I led a research team in Guatemala that examined the role of credit unions in alleviating credit constraints for low wealth households. My dissertation examines the impact of financial liberalization on rural credit markets in Peru. During my fieldwork in 1997-1998, I conducted two rounds of surveys with 550 farmers in an effort to understand how well the credit market performs for different classes of farmers. One of the interesting conceptual and empirical findings is the existence of a class of "Risk Rationed" farmers. These are farmers who have access to an expected-income enhancing credit contract, but they choose not to accept the contract because of the risk implied by the collateral requirement. My research interests extend beyond credit markets, and I have conducted large household and enterprise surveys regarding land markets, property rights, and international migration in Central America and Africa.

I am currently collaborating with researchers from UW-Madison (Carter and Barham) on a project funded by the World Bank and the European Economic Community which explores the impacts of the market-based land and credit reforms implemented in Honduras and Nicaragua in the early 1990's. With the data collection phase complete, we are now turning to examine the impacts of policy reform - such as private land titling - on access to key rural markets utilizing panel data econometrics.

In October of 2001, I began a new research project in Peru entitled "Facing Risk: Formal and Informal Responses to Crisis in Peruvian Agriculture." In this project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Consortium (Canada-Peru) and co-directed by Carolina Trivelli of the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, we will revisit 400 households that were interviewed in 1997 - one year prior to the severe El Nino occurrence of 1998 - in order to see what types of ex-ante and ex-post risk mitigating mechanisms farm households utilize. We will also apply an innovative new survey module which will quantify the frequency and severity of household shocks. This will allow us to directly estimate the distribution of shocks and measure the relative importance of different types of shocks - idiosyncratic versus covariate as well as shocks to income, consumption, or assets. Contingent on receipt of additional funding, this project will expand to include a broader sample of households which will be re-surveyed every two to three years over the next decade.

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