Underappreciated economists, a continuing series

Vivian Hoffman, currently a Ph.d. candidate at Cornell.  When I read this description of her research I think that modern economics is very much on the right track:

I study the economics of anti-poverty and health interventions using household survey and experimental economics methods.  Most of my work to date has been in East Africa.  For my dissertation research on demand for and intra-household allocation of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, I conducted fieldwork in southwestern Uganda. Ongoing projects include a study on the impact of food aid receipt on labor supply and agricultural production in Malawi, estimateing the returns to farm assets in rural Ethiopia, and an experimental investigation into the effect of stigma on HIV testing behavior.  I hope to continue working at the intersection of health and development economics.  My interests also include health and poverty-related issues in Canada and the United States.

Here is the abstract on her main paper:

This paper reports results from a field experiment in Uganda. Whether a mosquito net was purchased or received for free affected who within the household used the net. Free nets were more likely to be allocated to those members of the household most vulnerable to malaria, whereas purchased nets tended to be used by the household’s main income earners. The effect was strongest for free nets received by the mother, increasing the probability that all children five and younger slept under nets by 26 percent relative to when nets had been purchased by either parent or given to the father.

In other words, within the household the breadwinners have a greater practical ability to control priced goods than non-priced goods.  This hints at one reason why men are often more willing to "think like economists" within the family.

You might think that Vivian has not yet done enough to be judged, but surely she has done enough to be judged as underappreciated.  So go appreciate her and remove that label from her name!


I haven't read the paper... but was there any control on whether the people handing out the free nets gave instructions or indicated that they should be used on those most vulnerable?

Wonderful projects are carried out in a nice way by some of my graduate students.Here is a list of some topics being studied by them:

1.Economics of elephant ownership (private elephants,temple elephants which are privately managed and govt.elephants attached to temples coming under Govt.Boards).She also looks in to the coditions of mahouts also,
2.Spatial integration among small towns,
3.Morbidity and health expenditure in villages,
4.Living arrangements of heterogenous tribals in western ghats,

How did you come across Ms. Hoffmann? Is it common for faculty to browse graduate student biographies, or did you discover her work through another medium? I'm curious as a PhD student myself (in engineering).

This is a very good sign indeed. I just wish that the professional development community would catch up. That is why it is very good that programs like IR/PS ( http://irps.ucsd.edu/ ) are turning out professional master's degree candidates with training in experimental design for development projects.

When will we a have series of "Big Timing Economists"?

The premiere figure should be Mr. Tyler Cowen himself. After posting a request to the bedraggled readers of this blog for places to eat lunch in L.A., he bypassed his most earnest loyal readers and instead he big-timed us by taking the emailed advice of the elite, fabulously wealthy, Marc Andreessen.

And did he follow his humble advice of a of a local, reasonable ethnic dive? No, he went to the incredibly expensive HamaSaku, which is owned by fire-breathing media mogul Michael Ovitz.

Yes, Prof Cowen has met Los Angeles and gone native. He'll next be seen chatting up his publicist on a tiny cell phone, emailing his talent agent on a blackberry, and posting on his blog with an Iphone, all while negotiating Santa Monica boulevard for a lunch date at Wolfgang Puck's Cut.


Is it possible that there are two different groups of people: A). get
free nets; B). go buy nets? If it is true, then what the author observed
might just comes out of two different family "philosophy" (if you will),
instead of the way nets getting into family's houses. -- Just my thoughts.

neat article - thought it also shows everything wrong with economics today. pages 7-10 are entirely unneccessary. the language is awkward and tedious throughout. this probably has more to do with what the field expects from phd candidates than what ms hoffman is capable of. sad state of affairs.

My explanation - male desire for domincance stems from a desire to guarantee lineage of children. This dominance curtails female range of behavior. Because females are the family altruists a la Becker's rotten kid theorem, this means that many efficient intrafamilial transfers do not get made.

Goodnight, everybody!

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