While I don’t write as prolifically as I used to, below is a collection of my essays and publications.

Taking Measured Risk
I started a blog that shares personal stories and research on effective risk taking to help people make informed choices. I post articles about risk taking under a variety of contexts, as well as interviews with key leaders across nonprofit, for-profit, and government institutions. Especially since the greatest opportunities for personal and professional development often involve risk, I want to further dimension the steps towards calculating risk and assessing risk/reward.

Economic Development

A Guide to Giving: Second Edition (available on Amazon.com)
What is effective giving? What exactly is the meaning of giving? A Guide to Giving, written collectively by volunteers of the global organization Givology, answers these questions by delving into topics of social enterprise best practices, measuring “return on giving”, and optimizing volunteer engagement. The first half of the book is primarily a handbook for effective giving, drawing lessons from the Givology experience for budding changemakers. The second half shares the stories, motivations, and practical advice of 12 inspiring social entrepreneurs who have enabled extraordinary change around the world. Looking at statistics of global poverty, it’s easy to think, “How can one individual make a difference?” The purpose of the book is to inspire you to action to start making a difference today!

“As young as they are, the authors have realized what took me years to learn: understanding, assessing, and optimizing impact is at the core of any truly effective philanthropic act…In this book, you will find encouraging stories of giving, practical advice from amazing organizations about how to create a successful culture of giving, and a framework for how to ensure your giving yields results. I have no doubt Givology will ignite a new generation of effective changemakers.” – Bhavna Shyamalan, representing the M Night Shyamalan Foundation

Aspirations and Schooling: Analysis of the formation and intra-household impact of educational aspirations in rural China
Above is a link to the extended essay that I completed for the Msc Economics for Development Program at Oxford University, which received the thesis award. I worked with Dr. Albert Park, who provided me with so much feedback, guidance, and support.

Abstract: Conventional household decision-making models exclude children as participatory agents with bargaining power, even though as the child ages and transitions into adulthood, he or she exerts more control over many decisions affecting his or her life, even in tradition-bound societies. In decisions regarding school enrollment and continuation, the preferences of young people remain an important, yet under-explored factor. Especially in a developing country context, few economics studies have attempted to explore the connection between extrinsic socioeconomic variables and the formation of intrinsic educational aspirations, with the latter influencing educational outcomes. This study is the first to investigate whose aspirations matter in education within the household, and how factors such as income, wealth, and child age affect the relative importance of these aspirations, a proxy for decision-making power.

Using longitudinal survey data from rural China, this paper first explores the determinants of parent and child aspirations for schooling, and then investigates the different factors that affect the relative importance attributed to parent and child schooling preferences on school continuation. The five main results of the study are: (1) Aspirations for children are lower than parental aspirations, and correspond more strongly to measures of ability, while gender and wealth were not significant. In contrast, wealth is a significant positive predictor for mother and father aspirations, and mothers have lower aspirations for female than male children. (2) Higher children’s aspirations are significant predictors of staying in school, even after controlling for ability, socioeconomic, and demographic variables, and are more important than parental aspirations. (3) Mother’s aspirations are strongly correlated with children’s aspirations, but do not influence school continuation. In contrast, father’s aspirations do not predict children’s aspirations, but significantly influence school continuation, especially of boys. (4) Age increases the weight on father and child aspirations, suggesting that intrinsic motivation matters more at higher levels of education. (5) Income increases the weight on father aspirations, but decreases that of the child. These results support the inclusion of children’s preferences in household decision making models and human capital investment models, and provide insights into the intrinsic influences that affect intra-household decisions.

Why Doesn’t Capital Flow from Rich to Poor Countries? (PDF)
This essay describes some possible theoretical and empirical reconciliations of the Lucas Paradox. In general, the theoretical explanations for the “Lucas Paradox” fall into two categories. The first category pertains to differences in fundamentals relating to the overall production structure of the economy, including technological differences, lack of productive infrastructure and other elements affecting total factor productivity, missing factors of production, government policies (such as tariffs, taxes, capital controls, and non-trade barriers), and institutional structure. The second category relates to international capital market imperfections, such as information asymmetry (home bias), sovereign risk, and credit failures (financing frictions)

Harnessing the Silk Road: The Development Impact of Increasing Chinese-African Trade (PDF)
This paper seeks to address the question: What is the development impact of increasing Chinese trade on African economies? Given the heterogeneity of African countries in terms of endowments and policy environments, this paper attempts to generalize emergent patterns, recognizing that country-specific analysis is essential. Moreover, although beyond the scope of this paper, trade has important linkages with Chinese FDI and aid. First, this paper will discuss the macroeconomic effect of China’s commodities consumption and the Dutch Disease. Next, this paper will analyze African exports to China, revisiting the deindustrialization debate and trade complementarities. Finally, this paper will investigate the competitive effects of Chinese imports to Africa, both domestically and internationally. I conclude that the positive terms of trade shock driven by Chinese consumption of commodities, access to Chinese imports, and greater geographic trade diversification benefits Africa, but harnessing the long-term development potential depends on efficacious government policies to evade Dutch Disease effects, promote product diversification to mitigate output volatility, and spur competitiveness by investing in human capital and improving the business climate.

Balanced Growth and Structural Change (PDF)
According to the Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, balanced growth has two different meanings. In macroeconomics, balanced growth occurs when output and capital stock grow at the same rate, consistent with Kaldor’s stylized facts that overall, growth rate of output, the capital-output ratio, the real interest rate, and the labor share of income remain broadly constant over time. In development economics, however, balanced growth has an additional meaning, in which it refers to the simultaneous, coordinated expansion of several sectors – a classic feature of single-sector neoclassical growth models. This paper focuses on the Lewis Model and the Kongsamut, Rebelo, and Xie Model, and then more broadly discusses the implications of efforts to reconcile balanced growth with structural change.

Positive and Normative Measures of Income Inequality (PDF)
This paper discusses the properties of the Lorenz curve and the Atkinson index, and then provides a broader discussion on the welfare implications of positive measures of inequality, using the Gini coefficient as an example.

Optimal Trade Policy for Africa (PDF)
If you had the power to set the trade and trade-related policies of all countries in the world, what changes would you make to accelerate growth in Africa, and why? This essay first proposes a series of trade policy reforms in agriculture and manufacturing in both developed and developing countries, and argues their merits and contribution to growth. Next the essay discusses the role of preferential trade policies towards Africa by developed countries to facilitate growth. Finally, the essay concludes with some general observations about the efficacy of trade policy in promoting economic growth in Africa – in particular, commenting on the importance of creating complimentary policies to support greater openness and encourage investment.

Essays in Trade Theory (PDF)
This essay provides an analysis of comparative statics of different trade instruments and policies (export tariff, import tariff, export tax, optimal trade policy, Lerner symmetry, etc)

Water Subsidy Design and Implications (PDF)
Regardless of the shortcomings of current pricing structures, water tariffs constitute a potent public policy instrument for achieving the objectives of economic efficiency, revenue sufficiency, income redistribution, equity, and resource conservation, albeit with trade-offs. In addition, effective subsidy schemes must reflect ease of implementation and transparency, developed with full political and public accountability. This paper proposes an optimal structure for water subsidy design.

Ghana’s Development (PDF)
Although Ghana enjoyed a privileged position in the post-colonial era due to a relatively stable regime with a charismatic leader committed to soliciting international financial support, profitable natural endowments, and a comparatively high stock of human capital, short-term growth belied the atrophy of long-term sustainable development. Six reoccurring historical themes account for Ghana’s failure to capitalize on its assets: excess demand, currency overvaluation, foreign dependence, ineffective policies concerning comparative advantages, overextended state involvement, and financial sector inhibitions. As a means to develop the historical context, this paper first gives a brief overview of Ghana’s economic history. Next, it specifically focuses on the policies of the Big Push strategy of Kwame Nkrumah and the Economic Recovery Program (ERP) of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) under Jerry Rawlings.

Case Study: IUNA (PDF)
(In Spanish) This case study discusses the innovative structure of IUNA, a social holding company in Valencia, Spain that runs a variety of social enterprises targeted towards vulnerable populations (disabled, former criminals and drug users, etc). Most interestingly, IUNA has a “social stock”, in which investors can commit an amount of capital and earn a small amount of interest in the duration the equity funding is used to support the various IUNA ventures. This paper received an honorable mention for the “Ignacio Ellacuria Prize of Studies of Social Interest”.

Other Writings

Microphilanthopy in Education (PDF)
I presented this essay at the 2009 Education Without Borders conference in Dubai in the “e-technology” panel. This paper ended up winning the best paper prize. Back then, Givology was only in its most incipient stage and we’ve since evolved. Summary: What’s the difference between a single million-dollar donation versus a million one-dollar donations? With technological advances reducing transaction costs and increasing usage of P2P social networking sites, the Internet has fundamentally revolutionized education philanthropy, empowering information sharing to make giving by individuals much more targeted, transparent, and rewarding. This in-depth case study on Givology seeks to discuss microphilanthropy’s implications for education, its benefits and limitations, potential risks, and future opportunities.

Spanish Culture and Civilization: Reflection on Texts (PDF)
(In Spanish) The above document contains a collection of my reflections and thoughts on the writings of key Spanish literary figures when I studied abroad in Madrid. The process of organizing my thoughts and reflecting on a series of texts by great authors really improved my grasp of the language and understanding of the broader cultural context.