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PhD Day 2014 - interviews with students

On June 11, 2014, the first annual PhD conference was held at the Department of Economics. This was an oppprtunity for the doctoral students to present their projects and get useful input from fellow students and reserchers. Some of them were asked questions about their work.

1. What is your research about?
2. Why do you find this subject interesting?
3. What are the results so far?
4. What do you think of being a PhD student at the University of Gothenburg?

Simona Bejeranu, Brasov, Romania (year 4)

1. My research currently focuses on the determinants of child health and parental investments early in life. I investigate the effects of various types of policies and programs and especially how parental socio-economic characteristics interact with with these policies and programs and influence child health at birth and subsequent development.Simona Bejenariu

2. I am very interested in this type of questions since they are highly relevant for policy-making, and through this can have a direct and significant impact on the well-being of real people. Understanding the socio-economic determinants of child health and how various policies alleviate or exacerbate the initial disparities in endowments could potentially reduce lifelong inequalities and lead to an improvement in the overall welfare.

3. I think this is hard to summarize in a couple of sentences without first explaining the context of the papers, and I have three papers now, so I would rather not go into details.

4. Being a PhD student at the University of Gothenburg has been a very challenging and rewarding experience. The environment in the Department of Economics is very nurturing. I was always encouraged to pursue my own research interests, to follow my curiosity, but in the same time receiving constant support and advice from my supervisors.

Oana Borcan, Roman, Romania (year 4)

1. My research is about how economic outcomes in society are shaped by political institutions and governance. I take two perspectives on institutions:

a) A micro approach, in which I analyze the impact of incentives and monitoring on education and electoral outcomes at a very disaggregated level (individuals, schools, municipalities). In two papers, my co-authors and I study first the effect of a public school teacher's pay cut and then, the impact of punishment and CCTV monitoring, on corruption. In another paper I look at the influence of mayors aligned with the parties in the government on voting outcomes in nationwide elections.

b) A macro long-run approach, in which my co-authors and I study the relationship between historical state institutions that emerged as far back as 5,500 years ago and comparative economic development of counties today.

2. I believe institutions are crucial constraints in solving economic problems. But institutions may also be the outcome of economic decisions, which makes their study all the more challenging, but interesting. I am particularly intrigued by the phenomenon of corruption, which is very elusive, hard to observe, measure and analyze. The historical side of economic development is also one of my interests, because I believe choices made even in the distant past reverberate to some extent in our economies today.

Oana Borcan3. In a nutshell: corruption can intensify as a result of poor compensation of bureaucrats, but punishment coupled with monitoring may be an effective way to reduce it. However, side effects of anticorruption campaigns may include increased inequality in society. My other findings are that countries with a too large or too small accumulated experience with state institutions have lower economic development today than countries with an intermediate level of state experience.

4. Being a PhD student has been quite a ride. But it certainly offered me plenty of support and the opportunity to learn from fantastic people, whose help is greatly appreciated!

Hanna Mülrad, Stockholm, Sweden (year 2)

1. My primary research interests are within development economics, economics of gender and political economy. More specifically, my research targets issues related to gender based violence, sexual and reproductive health and right, conflict and natural resources in Sub-Saharan Africa.

To address issues on gender based violence and conflicts I study domestic violence and political conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa using spatial information on conflicts from ACLED database combined with Demographic and Health Survey data. The channels through which conflict is thought to give rise to domestic violence are by partial or total collapse of social order, impunity of crimes and contagion of violence. Moreover, political conflicts might also alter the value of women’s outside option (outside the relationship) and hence influence domestic violence.

Hanna Muhlrad2. I find these questions interesting since, gender based violence generates serious health and social issues and increases medical costs and reduces labor productivity. There is a clear negative relationship between gender based violence economic development. My aim with the study is to go beyond the traditional conflict research, analyzing the relationship between of political conflict and domestic violence, analyzing mechanism of domestic violence while also highlighting additional costs of war and conflict.

4. Being a graduate student at University of Gothenburg provides a great opportunity to gain academic experience and excellence in the field of development economics. Moreover, the PhD-programme is partly sponsored by Sida, which means that I work with students from development countries from all over the world. It's great fun and educational when different nationalities and cultures meet, you learn so much from each other. 

Martin Chegere, Dar es Salam, Tanzania (year 2)

1. My research is about the impacts of improved storage on value chain creation. It aims at analysing how improved storage techniques can create economic benefits in terms of reducing physical quantitative losses, improve the nutritional value of the stored grain food and how these loss reductions create market opportunities for rural farmers in Tanzania. The study will explore further the impacts on household food security, income and farm and non-farm investment. 

Martin Chegere2. Studies have shown that in Africa post-harvest losses in food are about 20 to 30 percent of the harvest values. This imposes a great threat on food insecurity and undernourishment. In Africa, seasonal food shortages are evident among rural agrarian households following the agricultural cycle. This fact led to a number of interventions ranging from training in improved handling to the use of modern storage technology in Africa. However the success stories have been rare. A World Bank report from 2011 attributed this to low economic incentives to reduce post-harvest losses by poor farmers. Thus, it is interesting to investigate whether the post-harvest intervention improves the efficiency of the value chain as a whole to create economic incentives to use improved storage methods.

4. Being a PhD student at the University of Gothenburg is a wonderful opportunity. The programme is well structured giving a PhD student two years of course work that solidify the core theoretical issues of economics while proving you with useful tools of analysis for doing research. Then you have two and a half years of writing your thesis. During that time we interact and learn a lot from our professors through courses they teach, seminars and personal discussions. The first PhD conference we have had in June this year was a brilliant idea. I personally benefited a lot from comments given to me on my planned research ideas and from knowing what all other PhD candidates are doing.

Lisa Westholm, Göteborg, Sweden (year 2)

1. My research is about climate policy, particularly related to forests. I am interested in how these policies affect gender relations. I am specifically looking at how changing forest management and use of forest resources in Burkina Faso impact local forest users and the way they relate to each other and the forest.

2. I am interested in environmental policy and how we can tackle problems such as climate change. The interactions, and sometimes trade-offs between climate change policy and other issues, including other environmental problems, power relations, poverty, gender inequalities etc. raises many complicated and challenging questions.

Lisa Westholm4. It is inspiring to work with such a diverse group of people from all over the world.





Page Manager: Ann-Christin Räätäri Nyström|Last update: 8/21/2014

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