I study the causes and consequences of disparities in human capital within developing economies and the policies that can remedy them. I focus on the historical and social contexts of these inequalities so that development policymakers can properly tailor programs to the communities they serve.

Working Papers

Colonial Labor Institutions, Marriage Markets, and HIV: Evidence from Mozambique

European colonizers used several main institutions to extract wealth from African labor. Narrative evidence suggests that two of them – one pushing young men into circular migration and another restricting their mobility – differentially impacted marriage markets with bride price. Specifically, migrants’ earnings may have made them marriageable earlier, thus narrowing spousal age gaps, while low wages under mobility-restricting regimes would have widened these disparities, which later became a major HIV risk factor. I test such hypotheses and their implications using the arbitrary border within Mozambique that separated these institutions for a half-century (1893-1942). Historically, men married earlier on the migrant-sending side, even after the border was erased and circular migration rates converged. Today, this area has lower HIV prevalence and smaller age gaps but similar development outcomes. These results show that differences between extractive colonial institutions matter and that marriage markets are a channel through which history can shape the present.

Deworming as HIV Prevention for Young Women: Evidence from Zimbabwe

Nearly one-third of new HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa occur in young women, largely because their partners are from high-prevalence groups. Since marriage market matching is shaped by human capital, which is influenced by childhood health, can deworming girls lower their chances of contracting HIV as young women? To answer this question, I study Zimbabwe’s school-based deworming program (2012-17), which substantially reduced rates of urogenital schistosomiasis. Using a difference-in-differences design, I find that 3 years after it began, young women’s HIV prevalence fell 2.7 percentage points (p.p., 44 percent) more in high-schistosomiasis districts. Human capital’s effects on marriage market matching appear to explain the results: young women’s secondary school attendance rose 6.0 p.p. (9 percent), and they had less age-disparate and fewer sexual partners. These results show that a cheap treatment for a common childhood disease can also slow an expensive and deadly pandemic, substantially increasing deworming’s estimated benefits.

Work in Progress

Disease, Disparities, and Development: Evidence from Chagas Disease in Brazil (with Eduardo Montero)

Chagas Disease—a neglected tropical disease (NTD) with a weeks-long acute stage and often a chronic cardiovascular phase at least 10 years later—almost exclusively impacts poor, rural populations in Latin America, the world's most unequal region. How does eliminating it affect inequality and development? We answer this question using Brazil's initial vector control campaign (1984-89) and a difference-in-differences approach. We find that where the vector was more prevalent before spraying, adult employment rates rose more after it began, cohorts treated as children had higher adult incomes, and both effects were larger for non-white Brazilians. Using a triple-differences strategy, we also show that Brazil's health care system—which consumes 4 percent of GDP—spent substantially less on cardiovascular hospital care following the decline in chronic Chagas Disease. These results show that combating NTDs can speed convergence in societies with large racial disparities and improve the fiscal health of developing economies.

The Promises and Pitfalls of Using DHS Data for Comparisons across Countries and National Borders

Blood Taxes: The Development Effects of Military Conscription in Colonial French West Africa (with James Allen IV)

Data collection in progress at the Archives Nationales du Sénégal, Dakar, Senegal