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Benjamin Krause

Executive Director

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I am an economist, social sector leader, international development professional and humanitarian emergency responder. For more than two decades, I have been identifying and implementing impactful programming with marginalized communities and local governments across more than 30 low- and middle-income countries as well as in the US. I have been fortunate to repeatedly launch, rapidly build, and strategically lead several different highly collaborative, diverse, and dynamic organizations. I focus on designing and writing causally-identified, policy-relevant research and then crafting and implementing evidence-based policy.

 

Today, I am at the University of Chicago serving as Executive Director of the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics fostering frontier research and converting findings into global impact. Immediately prior, I launched and served as the founding Executive Director for UChicago’s Development Economics Center and Development Innovation Lab (DIL) with Nobel Laureate Michael Kremer working to use the tools of economics to develop innovations with the potential to benefit millions of people – especially in low- and middle-income countries. During that time, I oversaw the Weiss Fund for Research in Development Economics and the Innovation Commission on Climate Change, Food Security, and Agriculture. I also launched the Market Shaping Accelerator to advise governments and major philanthropies on unleashing the creative power of the private sector to address social challenges, and the Government Innovation Initiative to support our government partners in establishing within their offices the virtuous cycle of evidence informing policy and then policy generating ever-more-relevant evidence. 

 

I came to UChicago from the University of California, Berkeley where I did my Ph.D. studying development economics and political economy with a particular interest in institutional formation in weak states and ungoverned spaces. In my research, I combine my networks and years of experience with my broad educational background, knowledge of theory and training as a microeconomist to conceive of, design, fund and implement novel randomized controlled trials (RCTs).  I similarly identify, access and employ relevant administrative data sets both in service of RCTs and to exploit quasi-random policy variations for causal identification.  I work primarily in collaboration with and in support of local government and civil society partners, and I strive to conduct experiments at-scale while minimizing deviations from normal operations.

 

Before returning to academia, I was in Haiti for five years leading Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO, renamed CORE) first as Country Director and later as Mr. Penn’s Chief of Staff and Senior Vice President. During that time, I built the organization from a volunteer team of a few dozen, mostly international, volunteers, to one of the largest and most successful development institutions in the country employing nearly 1,500 and led by Haitian development professionals. Prior to that, I was with Catholic Relief Services in Ethiopia, Uganda Village Project, and a series of posts throughout Latin America. I also am a founding board member and continue to serve LIDE Haiti Foundation.

I'm originally from Nebraska in the United States and began my professional career by spending several years in formation with the Jesuits. In addition to English, I also work in Haitian Kreyol, French, and Spanish. Prior to my Ph.D., I earned a BA in Philosophy and Spanish from Xavier University, an MA from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and an MSc in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Berkeley. 

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Research

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Balancing Purse and Peace:

Tax Collection, Public Goods and Protests

 

JOB MARKET PAPER

Abstract

Strengthening state capacity in low income countries requires raising tax revenue while maintaining political stability. The risk of inciting political unrest when attempting to increase taxes may trap governments in a low-tax equilibrium, but public goods provision may improve both tax compliance and political stability. To test these questions empirically, I partner with the national tax authority and a local mayor’s office in Haiti to cross-randomize both tax collection and public goods across one of the country’s largest cities. Effects are measured both via administrative data on tax revenue as well as through novel measures of political unrest. In the paper’s main result, I show that hand-delivering property tax invoices reduces individual tax compliance by 48\%, and increases independently observed measures of localized political violence by 192%. In contrast, providing a valuable and visible public good (namely municipal garbage removal) increases tax compliance by 27%, and reduces localized political violence by 85%. Importantly, public goods provision significantly mitigates the adverse effects of tax collection in neighborhoods receiving both treatments. A cost accounting exercise suggests that providing the public good in this setting could pay for itself within the first year. These findings suggest that it may be possible to peacefully shift to a new equilibrium of higher tax compliance with a sufficient initial investment perhaps financed through foreign aid or other transfers.

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Other Research

Working Papers, Interventions in Progress, and Policy Reports

Public–Private ‘Partnership’:

Improving Welfare and Reducing Corruption in Haiti’s Universal Primary Education Program

Due to the acute challenges of governance in Least Developed Countries, donors are increasingly promoting Public–Private Partnerships to increase service provision. However, these hybrid arrangements create a different set of governance challenges as officials seek to hold private sector actors accountable for delivery. I examine one such effort in Haiti where the government attempted to achieve universal primary education by providing 200 million USD in subsidies directly to education entrepreneurs. I find evidence that the program’s roll–out coincided with a more than 30 percentage point increase in primary school enrollment and use a cohort study to identify causal evidence of both increased enrollment as well as household welfare improvements. Furthermore, I make use of multiple novel datasets with both difference-in-difference and event study specifications to find that audited participants reduced grant claims by nearly 20% – interpreted as a reduction in fraud – resulting in a directly observed savings of 875,000 USD per year for a conservative return of 11 USD for every dollar spent on auditing. I do not find any evidence of spillover effects. I discuss policy implications for seeking to effectively increase public goods provision through the private sector when facing limited oversight capacity.

The Effect of Cash Transfers and Village Savings Groups on Youth Violence, Conflict and Moral Formation 

with J. Magruder and E. Wiseman

How does poverty affect a youth’s choice to join armed conflict? Can their propensity to violence be reduced by improving their economic fortunes? How do significant financial windfalls affect their moral decision making? With my co-authors, I am exploring these ideas through a pair of USAID-funded RCTs in the Democratic Republic of Congo evaluating approximately $20 million of programming aimed at reducing violence and participation in armed groups in both urban and rural settings. Both evaluations test the effects of the first cash transfers made by GiveDirectly in the country as well as the effects of expanded mobile financial products. In the rural areas, we are also testing the effects of savings groups and the associated financial literacy training provided by traditional development implementers.

Digging Deeper to Understand Child Labor

with B. Faber and R. Sanchez de la Sierra

With international awareness of child labor in the production of mobile phones, laptops, and electric vehicles increasing, this report presents additional findings to complement “Artisanal Mining, Livelihoods, and Child Labor in the Cobalt Supply Chain of the Democratic Republic of Congo” (Faber et al., 2017) to inform policy responses. Based on new data from the 1,575 children surveyed across the 150 mining communities in our representative sample. Our analysis provides additional evidence that households in these communities, and in particular those dependent on child labor, are on average poor and vulnerable to income shocks. Child labor, mostly from older teenagers, is a significant contributor to the mining sector making up 13% of the artisanal mining workforce. Age-based specialization leads to the oldest children performing the most risky tasks. We further discuss heterogeneity in gender and reported motivation to work in mining. The surveys indicate that the decision for a child to work outside the home is primarily made by the parents, but children mainly decide if they are going to work in mining. Our results highlight the precarity of mining-dependent families, the risks of blanket bans against ASM, and the importance of rigorous impact evaluation for identifying risk-minimizing ways to support mining-dependent families end their reliance on child labor in cobalt extraction.

Cobalt is one of the most essential and ubiquitous elements of the modern information economy as it is critical for the rechargeable batteries that make mobile connectivity and electronic vehicles possible. However, its supply-chain, and in particular its extraction, has come under significant scrutiny by local and international advocacy groups concerned about child labor and other threats to the health and safety of miners and mining communities. To shed light on the prevalence, distribution, forms, and causes of these issues, we mapped and then conducted a series of representative surveys in the artisanal mining communities in the “copperbelt” of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - the location of the the majority of the world’s known cobalt reserves. Administered to a random sample of 150 mining communities from the 426 we identified in total, our survey contains information gathered from 2,635 households and information about 15,023 individuals. We find that households in these communities are on average poor, heavily reliant on mining and vulnerable to income shocks. 90% of all mining labor is in artisanal small-scale mining (ASM), there are no forms of collective labor organization in 65% of mining sites, and overall miners appear to capture a significantly smaller price for their output than traders capture. Furthermore, 11% of children in these communities work outside of the home, of which 23% (or an estimated 4,714 children) work in the mining sector. We find: (1) Disengaging from artisanal mining can have detrimental effects for a large number of households living in the DRC cop- per cobalt belt; (2) Maintained sourcing from ASM, coupled with providing support and incentives to miners can prevent unintended harm, while reducing the prevalence of child labor; (3) The impact of interventions targeted at reducing child labor should be rigorously evaluated prior to their implementation at scale.

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The Effect of Cash Transfers
Digging Deeper to Undestand Child Labor
Artisanal Mining, Livelihoods and Child Labor
Cobalt Mining in DRC

Cobalt Mining in DRC

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Collaborators

The research featured here would not be possible without the generous participation of tens of thousands of survey respondents - it is to them that this work is dedicated.


Furthermore, I would like to thank the following people for their substantial contributions, creative solutions, tireless work, and (when dealing with me especially) saintly patience in the endeavor to translate research ideas into practical interventions.

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Marie Nadege Josaphat

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Joël "Ti Chofe" Lafortune

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Enumerators, Agents &

Community Experts

I would also like to recognize all who provide direct connections to the communities studied, who root this research in reality, carry out the difficult (often absurd) protocols and navigate all of the sensitivities necessary for success.

 

Thank you!

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  • Enumerators
    Berlineda Râteau Bien-Aime Steeve Kenley Blanc Darline Blonde Daphta Guerrier Casimir Mazeau Dorvil Ronelle Laurenzia Etienne Jimmytri Gedeon Bijou Guerrier Woodberline Herolna Pierre Inoncent Guirlene James Germain Jefferson Frédéric Judith Laguerre Junior Lundi Lafleur Gaspard-Flis Larue Arold Larue Ronise Laurenville Panel Laurore Adam Gandhi Marlene Frédéric Simon Patiouko Tham Ludger
  • Mayor's Agents
    Andrice Claudel Belizaire Ditel Bernadotte Naldy Brice Matthieu Choutte Alex Delille Paola Desir Desirhson Wendy Dumene Edwige Duronvil Adionnel Emile Junior Paulma Eugene Menerie Florestal Olrich Jean Baptiste Yves Colvenson Jean Jonas Frantz Laurenceau Frantz Junior Nacius Junette Philidor Rock H Poitevien Thierry Robert Nickelson Saint Rose Louis Kinson Sainvilus Benito Salla Devil Stenor Daniel Sylme Jacques Vilseant Casimir Voltaire Patrick junior Yves Osny Alexandre
  • Enumerators
    Assani Mwanambele Banza Ngoy Andy Cibanda Christian Cyrille Lupembwe Kilumba Iful Mbing Lysette Ilunga wa kishimba Kabongo Matshitshi Yann Kahilu Naweji Arnold Kaleka Rigal Kalenga Thusal Elie Kalindula Mwazwa Francois Kalunga wa Kokolo Freddy Kamwanga Nkulu Luc Kanyinda Tshisumpa Guy Michel Kapumba Christian Kasongo Muwewe Cedrick Kenge Caleb Kibanza Katahene Pierre Kibonda Katamanga Stella Kigalu Nyota Nora Kilundu Kyofwe Joseph Kisimba Kyungu Dorcas Kutshili Ndongji Abdon Leandre Kabimbi Kabila Lenge Wa Umba Irène Makand Yav Nelly Mark Kyenge Matengo Marie Christelle Mayembe Lwavwala Guillaume Mujinga Mwamba Martine Mukoko Valentini Vicel Mulombwe Nawej Mike Murishi Ndondji Cesar Musau Kovo Alphonse Muzang Masol Dieudonne Mwamba Misolo Lucien Mwamba wa Kwakaya Norbert Ndala Kadimba Marcel Ndaya Tshibenji Jolie Nduenga Kabemba Rodrigue Ngoy Matula Venant Ngoy Mutwale Andre Ntambwe Ndjibu Sedra Nyembwe Malebwe Daniel Ramazani Lupana Deogratias Solange Kyambeya Kiwilo Tope Nyeke Junior Tshilombo Mwin Kavul Richard Yav Mukaz Job Zack Onombe Utshudi
  • Supervisors
    Limbisa Nakitumba Sylvain Nyembo Mafuta Dolet
  • Translators
    Ngoy Mundunga Blanchard

I am proud to provide references.  Please contact me.

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Teaching

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Econometrics:

Multiple Equation Estimation (ARESEC 212)

Ethan Ligon &

Sophia Villas-Boas 

Graduate Student Instructor

Spring 2020

Introduction to the estimation and testing of economic models for the PhD students in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Includes analysis of the general linear model, asymptotic theory, instrumental variable, and the generalized method of moments. In addition, a survey of time series, analysis, limited dependent variables.

International Economic Development Policy (PP/ARESEC C253)

Alain de Janvry & 

Jean-Jacques Dethier

Graduate Student Instructor

Fall 2018 & Fall 2019

This cross-listed course for the Goldman School Masters of Public Policy and Berkeley's Masters of Development Practice emphasizes the development and application of policy solutions to developing-world problems related to poverty, macroeconomic policy, and environmental sustainability. Methods of statistical, economic, and policy analysis are applied to a series of case studies. The course is designed to develop practical professional skills for application in the international arena.

Interdisciplinary Development Seminar

(DEVP 239)

George Scharffenberger

Reader

Fall 2016

This course provides an opportunity for Berkeley's Master of Development Practice students to interact with a diverse group of invited guest speakers, including academics and practitioners. It will also provide opportunities for group discussion of basic questions, and it will provide opportunities to present ideas and discuss research and internship plans and experiences.

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Past Work

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