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Department of Economics

Leave No One Behind

Leave no one behind is the central, transformative promise of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A significant effort is required to reduce poverty, inequality, discrimination, and exclusion. Researchers at the Department are exploring innovative approaches to contribute to these goals.

We’ve picked three, exploring the potential of teaching self-regulation to children, the impact of landownership on crop yields in developing countries and assessing gender identity as a non-binary category in research.

Simple self-regulation interventions improve academic achievement significantly

Education is the most powerful factor to improve people’s lives, at every level of economic development. Understanding the impact of interventions in this area is key. Ernst Fehr’s project is based on the observation that underdeveloped self-regulation skills - such as self-control or perseverance in completing tasks despite previous failures - increase children's risk of having low income and poor health as adults, as well as getting into conflict with the law more quickly. How can we improve children's self-regulation skills? The team created and tested a short lesson that specifically promotes self-regulation for early learners and found that it significantly improves self-regulation. With strengthened self-regulation, the children can take more responsibility for their own learning, set their own goals and work towards them. One year after the intervention, the children were able to read significantly better and made fewer careless mistakes. Three years later the children who had experienced the intervention were more likely to attend secondary school. Link to article


Increasing agricultural efficiency through changes in land markets

Agriculture is the main source of income for more than half of all households in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the markets for land are far from perfect. Limited property rights leading to potential land disputes and the costs of search lead to little movement in landownership and tenancy. This is especially problematic for economic life in rural areas: It prevents equity in access to land by privileging those who inherit land, slows structural change by tying landowners to their land, and can reduce the efficiency of agricultural production by preventing talented farmers from expanding. In one of the first field experiments on land market participation, Lorenzo Casaburi and PhD student Michelle Acampora shed some light on the barriers to land market participation, and how to overcome them. They create incentives for land transactions by randomly allocating subsidies to agricultural tenants in Kenya. They then studied who trades land, how land tenants farm differently from landowners, and the effects on agricultural yields. By reallocating plots to farmers who previously ownend less land, tenant arrangements increase equity in access to land. This effect  persists beyond the subsidy. The new tenants, younger and more market-oriented, increase the production and yields and generate more value from the plot than the original landowners. They do this by increasing commercial crop production and using non-labor inputs, rather than labor. Link to article


Non-binary assessment of gender identity improves prediction of economic preferences

To date, economic research devoted to gender based differences in preferences has focused almost exclusively on the biological sex categories, i.e. male vs. female, and not on gender identity. Anne Brenøe and Roberto Weber from the Department, together with Alumnae Lea Heursen (Humboldt University Berlin) and Eva Ranehill (University of Gothenburg) explore how assessing gender identity is more predictive of economic preferences and behaviour than the traditional binary gender classification. Participants in her studies provide information about their gender identity by assessing how they see themselves on a scale from very masculine to very feminine. Preliminary findings show that adopting this innovative approach could be beneficial to better understand economic behavior. Link to Article