Emilia Tjernström

Emilia Tjernström

Senior Research Fellow

Monash University CDES


I am a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability (CDES) at Monash University

My research draws on insights from behavioral economics and employs econometrics, field-, and lab-in-the-field experiments to examine a variety of topics in development economics. I also think a lot about heterogeneity: how it shapes the success and optimal design of public policy, and how heterogeneous returns affect individual decision-making.

  • PhD, 2015

    University of California, Davis

  • BA in Economics, 2006

    Colby College

Filling a Niche? The Maize Productivity Impacts of Adaptive Breeding by a Local Seed Company in Kenya
| Journal of Development Economics


Learning by (virtually) doing: Experimentation and belief updating in smallholder agriculture
| Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization

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Heterogeneous Impact Dynamics of a Rural Business Development Program in Nicaragua
| Journal of Development Economics

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Money Matters: The Role of Yields and Profits in Agricultural Technology Adoption
| American Journal of Agricultural Economics

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Natural Disasters, Social Protection, and Risk Perceptions
| World Development

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Fitting and Interpreting Correlated Random Coefficient (CRC) Models Using Stata
| Stata Journal

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Identifying the Impact Dynamics of a Small Farmer Development Scheme in Nicaragua
| American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Papers and Proceedings

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Identifying the Impact Dynamics of a Small Farmer Development Scheme in Nicaragua
| American Journal of Agricultural Economics


Do Differences in Attitudes Explain Differences in National Climate Change Policies?
| Ecological Economics

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Rational Foolishness Would Destroy a Public Service Broadcasting System
| Journal of Media Economics

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Working papers

Relaxing multiple agricultural productivity constraints at scale

A previous version circulated under the title Can Smallholder Extension Transform African Agriculture?
with Joshua Deutschmann, Maya Duru and Kim Siegal (NBER Working Paper No. 26054)
Under review

Abstract No single constraint can explain the stagnant agricultural productivity growth in sub-Saharan Africa. Most interventions that relax individual barriers to productivity have delivered disappointing results. We evaluate an at-scale program that targets several productivity constraints with a bundled intervention, using a randomized controlled trial in western Kenya. Program participation increases maize yields by 26%, total maize output by 24%, and profits by 17%. While we cannot directly test whether the program's success is due to its bundled nature, we find patterns in the data that are consistent with this hypothesis.

Media and Motivation: the Effect of Performance Pay on Writers and Content

with Ivan Balbuzanov and Jared Gars

Abstract We study how incentives for journalists affect the quantity, quality, and composition of online media content. We report results from a field experiment within an online news firm in Kenya. Writers were randomly allocated to earn a piece-rate per article published or to a pay-per-view (PPV) contract. The PPV contract induced writers to produce more "popular" articles, but writers chose to submit fewer articles. Specifically, the PPV contract resulted in a 120% increase in total pageviews, a 180% increase in pageviews per article, and a 40% reduction in the number of articles produced. In line with our theoretical predictions, the effect on article quantity is concentrated among risk averse writers. Further, when given a choice, risk-averse writers tend to select out of the output-based contract. We also document changes along multiple non-incentivized dimensions of news production: writers shift away from producing local news towards national-level news. We see limited changes in article quality or in the prevalence of clickbait. Our study suggests that output-based incentive contracts have substantial implications for journalists' effort and content choices, and more broadly for selection into risky "gig work."

{#grc} Comment on Suri (2011) “Selection and Comparative Advantage in Technology Adoption”: A Group Random Coefficient Alternative with Weak-Identification Robust Inference

with Oscar Barriga Cabanillas, Dalia Ghanem, Travis Lybbert, Jeffrey D. Michler, and Aleksander Michuda

Abstract Our paper illustrates and addresses identification concerns in the correlated random coefficient (CRC) model that Suri (2011) uses to study agricultural technology adoption. Using the publicly available version of the same data, we are unable to replicate the main CRC model results in Suri (2011). To understand why, we recast the CRC model as a more general random-coefficient model in which the returns to hybrid adoption are restricted to be linear in comparative advantage. This reveals that the key structural parameter, $\phi$, is prone to a weak identification problem. We then propose a procedure to conduct weak-identification robust inference on $\phi$ using test inversion. Only with this robust procedure to account for weak identification are we able to replicate the original Suri (2011) results.

Learning from Others in Heterogeneous Environments
(being revised)

Seeds of Uncertainty: Information, Subjective Expectations, and Technology Adoption
with Jared Gars

Contact me

I sometimes lose track of emails. Please nudge me if I have not replied in a few days.