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European Research Council (ERC) grants

ERC Advanced Grant: Aspirations, Social Norms and Development (ASNODEV), 2016-21

Development economists and policymakers often face scenarios in which poor people do not make choices that would help them get out of poverty. This may be due to an “aspiration failure”: the poor perceive certain goals as unattainable and do not invest towards those goals, thus perpetuating their own state of poverty. The aim of this proposal is to improve our understanding of the relationship between aspirations and socio-economic outcomes of disadvantaged individuals, in order to answer the question: Can we design policy interventions that shift aspirations in a way that is conducive to development?

  • Short video describing the project:

  • Project description on EC portal:

ERC Starting Grant: Conflict, Identity and Markets (CIDAM), 2008-13

The developing world has been plagued by many civil conflicts in the past thirty years. Understanding the roots and the consequences of these conflicts is crucial to fight poverty. This project takes an economic approach to investigate the interplay between cultural, political and economic determinants of conflict in poor countries. I assess the role of domestic and international factors. Domestic factors include variables such as cultural identity, income inequality, resource endowments and geography. I re-examine the role of ethnic diversity using original multi-dimensional indicators. These take into account that the salience of ethnic identity may depend on how much it overlaps with categories based on income, education, etc. I also re-assess the role of natural resource abundance and weather shocks. I study the role of international players using a methodology based on financial markets’ reactions to news. This methodology allows me to address questions such as: Which companies gain or lose from violent conflict? How can we detect violations of international embargoes? Overall, the project helps integrate economic, social and political explanations for the occurrence of conflict in developing countries.

  • Project description on EC portal:


Initial Training Networks

I coordinated two Initial Training Networks (ITN), aimed at promoting opportunities for young researchers, interested in development economics, to spend time at one of several academic nodes and work under the supervision of established international faculty. We also regularly organized conferences and training events as part of the network’s activities.

Policy Design and Evaluation Research in Developing Countries (PODER), 2013-17

Good policy design requires understanding of how agents respond to incentives and how they interact through market and non-market institutions. New approaches to policy design have recently emerged. These rely on controlled experiments as well as analysis of natural policy experiments. They allow us not only to evaluate whether a policy has been successful but also to test the theoretical channels through which the policy is assumed to operate. This can help us generate more effective policies.

PODER trained a new generation of European doctoral students in the use of these techniques to design and evaluate policies to fight poverty. The training combined coursework and methodological tools taught at the academic nodes with on-site training in project management and data collection learnt from private sector partners. PODER’s research agenda was organized around three work packages: health and education, private sector development, and governance, political economy and institutions.

Actors, Markets, and Institutions in Developing Countries: A micro-empirical approach (AMID), 2008-12

Development Economics has seen an explosion of high quality empirical work in recent years, but despite the quality of many individual researchers, Europe is lagging behind the US in terms of number of students, faculty, and publications. Remedying this gap is important, not only for scientific reasons, but also because development research is a critical input to decision making by Governments and international Institutions.

The partners in the proposed ITN are dedicated to producing the next generation of research scholars working on development issues in Europe.  The ITN harnesses and combines intellectual resources which are scattered across Europe to offer doctoral students a first rate training comparable to the best opportunities available worldwide. 

The Network emphasizes rigorous empirical methods put to the service of fundamental questions in development economics. Research evolves around three workpackages:

1. Human capital and policy evaluation: investigates how households respond to incentives and how to design policies to improve education and health.

2. Market access for the poor: studies market imperfections in insurance, credit, product and labor markets.

3. Institutions: studies the emergence of social norms, the legacy of historical institutions, and their implications for governance and accountability.

- Project description on EC portal:


International Growth Centre (IGC)

I am co-director of the International Growth Centre (IGC) State research programme. The IGC unites policymakers and researchers to devise and implement effective growth-promoting agendas. The State research programme is responsible for considering country characteristics, such as governments and institutions, when forming these agendas.

Last change 09/07/2019