My current research is on corruption and development. In a series of papers and a book manuscript, I explore corruption in grass roots development. The corruption literature is rich with grand scandals and cross-country analyses of quantitative trends. Missing is an understanding of what is going on at the village level and how it connects to donors and decentralized governance. These papers get into the social networks of the corruption cartels on the ground. In a separate project with Jetson Leder-Luis we develop techniques based upon digit analysis to identify corruption risks.
Experimental EconomicsThe Roots of Human Sociality Project has launched two Phases of cross-cultural economic experiments in small-scale societies around the world. We investigate the evolution of pro-social norms of fairness, cooperation, and the social enforcement that sustains such norms and underlies collection action.
[ read more ]
African Political Economy
I began research among the Orma of Kenya for my doctoral dissertation in 1978. This set in motion a longitudinal study that continues to the present. While employing standard ethnographic techniques of participant observation over years of residence in one Orma district, I have also used quantitative survey techniques to understand institutional and economic change among the same households over time, with roughly decadal panel surveys of the same individuals. In a book and numerous journal publications, this work has addressed many topics drawn from the New Institutional Economics literature: property rights, transaction costs, principal-agent relations, and the relationship between economic incentives and a range of social and economic behaviors, including changing social norms and conversion to Islam.[ read more ]