James Allen IV


My research aims to improve health and education in low-income settings. Combining Peace Corps experience, microeconomic theory, and applied methods, I ask world-relevant questions and employ cutting-edge causal inference techniques to test interventions and their mechanisms via natural experiments or randomized controlled trials (RCTs). In my research thus far, I identify strategies for improving human capital in sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty is most dire.

Check out my Research Statement or read more about my work below.

Doctoral Research

JOB MARKET PAPER - Double-Booked: Effects of Overlap between School and Farming Calendars on Education and Child Labor

Synopsis: Across sub-Saharan Africa, countries with a greater percentage of overlapping days in their school and farming calendars also have lower primary school survival rates, as greater overlap between these calendars presumably reduces the time available for both schooling and farm-based child labor. I causally identify such effects by leveraging a four-month shift to the school calendar in Malawi that differentially affected communities based on their pre-policy crop allotments. I find that a 10-day increase in school calendar overlap during peak farming periods decreases school advancement by 0.34 grades—one lost grade for every three children—and the share of children engaged in peak-period household farming by 11 percentage points, after four years. Policy simulations illustrate that adapting the school calendar to minimize overlap with peak farming periods should increase school participation by better accommodating farm labor demand.

allen mahumane riddell rosenblat yang yu 2023 correcting SD norms - accepted at EDCC - full version.pdf

FORTHCOMING at Economic Development and Cultural Change - Correcting Perceived Social Distancing Norms to Combat COVID-19 

NBER WORKING PAPER: Can informing people of high rates of community support for social distancing encourage them to do more of it? We randomly assigned a “social norm correction” treatment, informing people of true high rates of community support for social distancing. Consistent with our theory, the treatment increases social distancing where COVID-19 case loads are high, but decreases it where caseloads are low. NBER link: https://www.nber.org/papers/w28651

Also check out the Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) project summary.

PUBLISHED at Economics of Education Review - Teaching and Incentives: Substitutes or Complements?

Synopsis: Interventions to promote learning are often categorized into supply- and demand-side approaches. In a randomized experiment to promote learning about COVID-19 among Mozambican adults, we study the interaction between a supply and a demand intervention, respectively: teaching, and providing financial incentives to learners. Experts surveyed in advance predicted a high degree of substitutability between the two treatments. In contrast, we find substantially more complementarity than experts predicted. Combining teaching and incentive treatments raises COVID-19 knowledge test scores by 0.5 standard deviations. NBER WP link: nber.org/papers/w28976

PUBLISHED at Journal of Development Economics - Knowledge, Stigma, and HIV Testing: An Analysis of a Widespread HIV/AIDS Program

Synopsis: Using randomized methodologies, we study a common community HIV/AIDS program that seeks to promote HIV testing by improving knowledge and reducing stigmatizing attitudes. Contrary to expectations, the program has a substantial negative effect on HIV testing rates. We provide evidence of likely mechanisms behind the program’s negative effect: it inadvertently increased misinformation about HIV, and worsened HIV-related stigmatizing attitudes. NBER link: nber.org/papers/w28716

PUBLISHED at Food Policy - Are Agricultural Markets More Developed around Cities?  Testing for Urban Heterogeneity in Separability in Tanzania

Synopsis: In this paper, I test for geographic heterogeneity in separability—a common test of functioning agricultural markets—between rural, peri-urban, and urban districts using 2014-15 World Bank LSMS data from Tanzania. I find evidence that can be interpreted of increased agricultural market functionality around 3 of Tanzania's 5 largest cities relative to rural areas. Adapted from a second-year term paper.


SYNTHESIS PAPER: The world is projected to add 3.1 billion people to the total population and 1.4 billion people to the working-age population between 2020 and 2100. Almost all of the additional working-age people will be added in Sub-Saharan Africa, a dramatic change from previous decades. This paper analyzes the demography of the African labor force in the coming decades using the United Nations population projections and shows that by 2050 Africa will be the only region in the world with a growing working-age population, and will be the only region in which the ratio of dependents to working-age population is falling.

IN PROGRESS: Combatting COVID-19: Measuring and Changing Beliefs, Knowledge and Behaviors -- We seek to support the Mozambican COVID-19 response by randomizing novel over-the-phone interventions to test if we can 1) encourage social distancing by accelerating changes in community norms, and 2) improve knowledge about COVID-19 via incentives and tailored feedback. Our findings will support the Mozambican response by informing policymakers of the public's COVID-19 knowledge and behaviors and on which public health messaging strategies are best to pursue given limited resources. [Project Website] [AEA Registry]

REPORTS: Combatting COVID-19 in Mozambique - We conducted three rounds of phone interviews across 76 communities in Sofala, Manica, and Zambezia provinces of central Mozambique between July 10th and November 18th, 2020. We find gradual improvements in COVID-19 knowledge, persistence of some hazardous behaviors, further declines in income, and continued high levels of food insecurity. Working papers COMING SOON.

Pre-Doctoral Research

Select Publications from when I worked as Research Director for the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK) at the University of Kentucky, 2012-2016:

Rossi, Jairus, Timothy A. Woods, James E. Allen IV, “Impacts of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) voucher program on food lifestyle behaviors: Evidence from an employer-sponsored pilot program,” Sustainability, 9.9, 1543, August 2017. doi:10.3390/su9091543

Rossi, Jairus, James E. Allen IV, Timothy A. Woods, Alison F. Davis, "CSA shareholder food lifestyle behaviors: a comparison across consumer groups," Agriculture and Human Values, February 2017. doi:10.1007/s10460-017-9779-7.

Allen, James, IV, Jairus Rossi, Timothy Woods, Alison Davis, “Do community supported agriculture programmes encourage change to food lifestyle behaviours and health outcomes? New evidence from shareholders,” International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, May 2016. doi: 10.1080/14735903.2016.1177866.

R.J. Coleman, M.G. Rossano, C. Jill Stowe, S. Johnson, A. Davis, J. Allen IV, A.E. Jarrett, G. Grulke, L. Brown and S. Clark, “The 2012 Kentucky Equine Survey: importance and impact of the equine industry in Kentucky” in C. Vial and R. Evans (eds), The New Equine Economy in the 21st Century (45-54), The Netherlands : Wageningen Academic Publishers, 2016.

Nicole Breazeale, Michael W-P Fortunato, James Allen IV, Ronald J. Hustedde, Helen Pushkarskaya, “Constructing a multi-dimensional measure of local entrepreneurial culture,” Community Development, 46:5, 516-540, October 2015. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2015.1080743.

Allen, James, IV, Alison Davis, Wuyang Hu, Emmanuel Owusu-Amankwah, “Residents’ Willingness-to-Pay for Attributes for Rural Health Care Facilities,” Journal of Rural Health, 31:1, 7-18, July 2014. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12080. 

Select Working Papers from when I studied Agricultural Economics at Michigan State University:

Allen, James, IV, “Determinants of Land Allocation in a Multi-Crop Farming System: An Application of the Fractional Multinomial Logit Model to Agricultural Households in Mali,” Working Paper, AgEcon Search, May 28, 2014.

Crawford, Eric, Duncan Boughton, James Allen IV, John Staatz, “Lessons Learned from 25 Years of Food Security Research, Capacity-Building, and Outreach,” Michigan State University, International Development Working Paper 101, October, 2009