Jump to:Page Content
Dr. Alessandra Voena
Sustainability Science Program
Kennedy School of Government
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Office: 502 Rubenstein Building
Group affiliation: Giorgio Ruffolo Research Fellow in Sustainability Science
Alessandra Voena is a Giorgio Ruffolo Fellow in the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago’s Department of Economics. Her research focuses on economics of the family, labor economics, and development economics. Alessandra is engaged in two studies examining Zambian families' decision making about fertility and agricultural investments: Maternal mortality and the gender gap in the demand for children with Nava Ashraf and Erica Field; and Tenure security and agricultural investment: Theory and evidence from Zambia with Brian Dillon. Alessandra is contributing to collaborative work with the Initiative on Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development led by William Clark. She received her PhD in Economics from Stanford University (2011) and BA in Economics from the University of Torino in Italy (2005). While at Stanford, she was a Graduate Dissertation Fellow at the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Studies and was selected to participate in the May 2011 Review of Economic Studies European Tour. Her dissertation examined US couples' joint savings decisions. Her faculty host is Nava Ashraf.
Maternal health risk and the gender gap in the demand for children in Zambia
Zambian men, as men from other Sub-Saharan African countries, are likely to report higher desired total fertility and lower acceptance of family planning compared to their wife. This study explores the hypothesis that this gender gap can be partly explained by the lower salience of the health costs of childbearing among men. The research tests whether providing information on the risk of maternal mortality may increase male acceptance of family planning and compares the impact of delivering such information to men and to women on household take-up of contraceptives. This project is being conducted jointly with Nava Ashraf and Erica Field.
The link between land tenure security and agricultural investment: Theory and evidence from Zambia
Efforts by governments and international organizations to replace traditional land tenure regimes in Africa with formalized Western systems of property rights have encountered substantial resistance from both local leaders and outside observers. Although these land regularization efforts are oriented toward worthwhile development objectives, it is clear that there is much that is still not understood about the complex nature of property rights regimes in many African states. This project examines fundamental questions related to the link between security of land rights and investments in land productivity, and to the policy instruments that can attenuate such linkages. The research uses a unique household- and community-level data set from Zambia that includes village-level information on the security of a wife’s rights to land after the death of her husband. The work examines to what extent the threat of land expropriation upon widowhood distorts long run investment in land quality. A range of outcomes related to investment in land productivity is considered: crop choice, acreage allocation, input intensities, output, and household labor supply. The primary source of variation stems from village-level customary laws that govern the redistribution of land after the death of a head of household. If the allocation of resources under insecure land rights differs from that under a more secure tenure system, variation in property rights systems may results in stable, long-run differences in consumption and investment trajectories. This effect is of particular importance in a setting such as modern day Zambia, where high mortality due to HIV leads to high rates of land ownership transfer. Variation in investment and consumption practices due to land inheritance regimes will allow estimating a dynamic model of farmer’s decisions, which can be used to simulate the impact of several policy instruments (e.g., input subsidies, community education, social insurance) in realigning farmers’ intertemporal choice even in the absence of secure land rights. The findings from this project will contribute to the small, but important, literature on gender-differentiated investments in land productivity and tenure security. The research sheds light on an important mechanism through which policy instruments can improve farmers’ wellbeing, without modifying customary land tenure practices. This project is being conducted jointly with Fellow Brian Dillon.