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Award Abstract #1254380

CAREER: Social Networks, Labor Markets and Agricultural Technology Adoption in Developing Countries

NSF Org: SES
Divn Of Social and Economic Sciences
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Initial Amendment Date: February 19, 2013
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Latest Amendment Date: May 16, 2016
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Award Number: 1254380
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Award Instrument: Continuing grant
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Program Manager: Nancy A. Lutz
SES Divn Of Social and Economic Sciences
SBE Direct For Social, Behav & Economic Scie
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Start Date: March 1, 2013
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End Date: February 28, 2018 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $369,108.00
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Investigator(s): Lori Beaman l-beaman@northwestern.edu (Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: Northwestern University
1801 Maple Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201-3149 (847)491-3003
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NSF Program(s): ECONOMICS
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Program Reference Code(s): 1045, 9178, SMET
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Program Element Code(s): 1320

ABSTRACT

Abstract

Proposal Title: CAREER: Social Networks, Labor Markets and Agricultural Technology Adoption in Developing Countries

Proposal Number: SES - 1254380

Principal Investigator: Beaman, Lori A.

This CAREER seeks to provide insights into how social networks affect economic behavior in developing countries in two key domains: labor markets and agricultural technology adoption.

The starting point for the first topic -social networks and labor markets- is that a large body of evidence shows that the quantity and quality of an individual's social network influences his or her labor market outcomes. Theory suggests social networks may exist in order to address market failures such as asymmetric information. Previous work by the Principal Investigator (PI) supports that individuals have useful information about fellow network members. However, the use of social networks in hiring decisions may reinforce existing inequalities, as those with few or poor-quality network connections could be further isolated from job opportunities. Women in particular report using social networks less often and also have worse labor market outcomes on average. Using a recruitment experiment in Malawi, the project looks at whether women are disadvantaged by referrals, and if so, why?

The second area is agricultural technology adoption: An important puzzle in development economics is why farmers do not use simple and seemingly profit-enhancing technologies. While there may be numerous constraints to technology adoption, imperfect information about the technologies could be an important factor. This project asks how social networks can be harnessed to improve the dissemination of information. The research also relates to recent work in economic theory on how network structure affects the diffusion process. Several interrelated projects in this area seek to answer empirical questions, including: 1) Do individuals with more agricultural experience generate positive spillovers to their neighbors? 2) Can agricultural extension agents partner with well-connected farmers to increase technology adoption? 3) Which social network characteristics (betweenness, degree, eigenvector centrality) of seed farmers most influence diffusion of information on new agricultural technologies? 4) Does targeting well-connected farmers come at the cost of increased inequality of knowledge within rural villages? These projects all employ novel data collected to precisely answer these questions, including social network censuses of many villages in Mali and Malawi. New methodologies are also used, such as integrating theory into a field experiment by using simulation of diffusion models and baseline social network data to determine which farmers in Malawi should receive training on new technologies.

Broader Impacts: One limitation of much of the previous research on social networks is that there are few policy implications. Policymakers can rarely alter people?s social networks. An objective of this CAREER project is to find ways in which policymakers can use the deep social networks which exist in developing country contexts to improve the effectiveness of policy --in particular to increase the adoption of simple agricultural technologies which can raise incomes and reduce poverty.

 

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