Carly Trachtman

Greetings!

I am a 4th year PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley.

 

My main fields of interest are: Development Economics, Agricultural Economics, and Behavioral Economics.

 

I work on topics such as financial inclusion, technology adoption, and measurement issues.

My contact info:

Office: 13A University Hall

Email: ctrachtman <at> berkeley <dot> edu

(Insert the appropriate symbols to email me!)

My CV:

Research

Below are some of my current projects.

Targeting the Poor and Vulnerable: A Re-analysis of a Field Experiment in Indonesia

Community wealth ranking methods, in which communities identify the poorest households to receive a targeted transfer, are of interest in the targeting literature, as they leverage community information about households’ welfare that may be difficult or costly for researchers to observe. In an experiment in Indonesia, Alatas et al. (2012) compare the rankings from a traditional proxy means test (PMT), in which easily observable assets are used to predict consumption levels, and community rankings in identifying households with the lowest per capita total consumption. They find PMT rankings better predict consumption, and conclude that the community appears to target transfers based on an alternate conception of poverty. However, it is not obvious that total consumption is the appropriate measure of welfare for comparing these methods, as utility changes will only correspond directly with changes in total consumption if utility is both homothetic and additively separable, which the data seems to reject. We claim that an index of the marginal utility of expenditure (IMUE) may better capture changes in households’ welfare from receiving transfers. Using methods from Ligon (2019) and data from Alatas et al. (2012), we test if there is evidence that communities target transfers based on an IMUE rather than only total consumption, and consider other factors which affect community rankings. Preliminary results show evidence that IMUE rankings help to explain community rankings even after controlling for total consumption rankings and PMT rankings.

 

 

What explains low adoption of digital payment technologies? Evidence from small- scale merchants in Jaipur, India (with Ethan Ligon and Ketki Sheth)

Adoption of various digital payment technologies has rapidly increased in the developing world, and is a cornerstone for financial inclusion initiatives in developing countries. Despite significant efforts to promote digital finance, rates of adoption remain modest in a number of low-income countries. In particular, the rate of adoption in India remains low despite significant efforts to promote adoption. In this paper, we consider possible reasons for the low rates of adoption among Indian merchants in Jaipur with small fixed-location store enterprises.  Using survey data for 1,003 merchants, we find little evidence that barriers in infrastructure and requirements explain the low level of adoption. Merchants do not lack the infrastructure to transact digitally (such as bank accounts and smartphones), fees on digital platforms are affordable, and merchants are familiar with the technology for using digital payment systems. We conclude that adoption is both feasible and inexpensive. Therefore, low rates of adoption do not appear to be the result of barriers faced, but rather an active choice made by merchants. We present evidence that this choice may be related to a perceived lack of demand from customers to pay digitally, and to concerns that records of mobile payments might be exploited by tax authorities. Our results suggest that simply lowering the costs associated with adopting these technologies is unlikely to be successful in increasing adoption of digital payments.

 

Also see the blog I've written about this project. 

Identifying Supply Constraints in Ethiopian Modern Input Markets

The goal of this paper is to detect a potential supply constraint facing small-scale farmers in Ethiopia in markets for modern agricultural inputs (chemical fertilizer and improved seeds), by examining if farmers exhibit marginal products of fertilizer and improved seeds higher than those that would be suggested if there were no supply constraint. There is anecdotal evidence in the Ethiopian context that  these inputs, provided almost solely through government channels, are both underprovided at the national level and misallocated at the local level due to local political patronage, which could be one potential channel for inefficiency to arise. Using an instrumental variable estimation strategy, I leverage information about local political connectedness that may be related to individual farmers' supply constraints, as well as properties of the Cobb-Douglas production function, to examine the effective marginal benefit from fertilizer and improved seeds, within the standard farm-household model framework.
    I find weak evidence consistent with farmers indeed being supply constrained when seeking to use modern inputs, and particularly urea. Additionally, in order to speculate about the effect this supply constraint has on farmers' production processes, I estimate the effect that the supply constraint has on a given farmer's agricultural output, and find some evidence of a negative impact of being supply constrained on agricultural output. 

Understanding the Influence of Brand Information in Online Purchase Decisions for Health Products (with Sofia Villas-Boas and Molly Van Dop)

In 2016, over 6% of all retail spending at health and personal care firms was done through an electronic medium. Purchasing health products online provides an interesting challenge to consumers, as not only do consumers often have limited knowledge about which health care goods that will best suit their needs (as these tend to be experience goods bought infrequently), but they also face the additional challenge of having to discern the quality of a good only based on its online listing. Hence in this context, a signal, such as the brand information of a good, may be useful in identifying its quality. Additionally, given that online purchasing decisions occur in private, we can rule out some other explanations for consumers choosing branded products, such as reputational concerns. Using data from a health goods retailer operating through Amazon.com from 2013 and 2014, we test whether brand information in the product’s listing influences the demand for health-related goods, controlling for other aspects such as page views and product ratings. We find that having branded information displayed in the product’s listing photo significantly increases the probability consumers consider a health good in their choice set (measured as page views) and but not the demand for the goods, except for the case of bandages and dressings. 

Teaching

  • UC Berkeley: EEP C118/IAS 118- Introductory Applied Econometrics (Graduate Student Instructor, Fall 2019)
  • UC Berkeley: Econ C171/EEP C151- Development Economics (Graduate Student Instructor, Fall 2018; Instructor of Record, Summer 2019)
    • Click here for some "Intro to R" notes from this class. (If CourseHero is going to charge for them without my consent, I will post them here for free!)
  • CEGA: EASST Mentorship- Spring 2019
  • Lafayette College: Math 141- Differential Calculus and Economic Modeling (Supplemental Instructor, Spring 2016)
  • Lafayette College: Econ 251- Intermediate Microeconomics (Supplemental Instructor, Spring 2014)

 

About Me

I am a 4th year PhD candidate interested in development, agriculture, and behavioral economics. While I often work with survey data that was already collected, I have spent some time in the field in India! I also am a past organizer of Berkeley's Development Lunch Seminar Series.

 

I am originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania and completed my undergraduate education at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. After that I moved to Berkeley, CA where I currently reside.

 

When I am not working on research, you can find me teaching cardio dance somewhere on Berkeley's campus or making silly videos about economics.

 

 

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