CASCI Research Talk: Violence and Financial Decisions: Evidence from Mobile Money in Afghanistan

CASCI Research Talk: Violence and Financial Decisions: Evidence from Mobile Money in Afghanistan

Violence and Financial Decisions: Evidence from Mobile Money in Afghanistan
Joshua Blumenstock, University of Washington, Information School

Tuesday, October 21, 12pm - 1pm
2119 Hornbake Bldg, South Wing

We present the results from a study on the relationship between violence and the financial decisions made by Afghan citizens.  Our analysis combines “big data” on financial and mobile money transactions with “small data” from a randomized experiment in Afghanistan.  We discuss three related results.  First, combining detailed information on the entire universe of mobile money transactions in Afghanistan with administrative records for all violent incidents recorded by international forces, we find a negative relationship between violence and mobile money use.  Second, we present the results of a field experiment in Afghanistan that was designed to measure the social and economic impacts of mobile money. In the context of this randomized control trial, violence is associated with decreased mobile money use and greater cash balances.  Third, in financial survey data from 19 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, we find that individuals experiencing violence hold more cash. Collectively, the evidence indicates that violence has a causal impact on financial decision-making, and that this is principally because of concerns about future violence. The degree of the relationship between cash holdings and violence is large enough to suggest that robust formal financial networks face severe challenges developing in conflict environments.

Speaker Bio

Joshua Blumenstock is an Assistant Professor at the Information School at the University of Washington, as well as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and the director of the Data Science and Analytics Lab.  His research develops theory and methods for the analysis of large-scale behavioral data, with a focus on how such data can be used to better understand poverty and economic development.  Recent projects combine field experiments with big spatiotemporal network data to model decision-making in poor and conflict-affected regions of the world.  Prior to joining UW, Joshua was a post-doctoral scholar in the Department of Economics at Yale University.  He has a Ph.D. in Information Management and a M.A. in Economics from U.C. Berkeley, and Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science and Physics from Wesleyan University.  He is a recipient of the Intel Faculty Early Career Honor and a former fellow of the Thomas J. Watson Foundation and the Harvard Institutes of Medicine. Ongoing projects are supported by the National Science Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Innovations for Poverty Action, USAID, and the U.K. Department for International Development.

The Center for the Advanced Study of Communities and Information (CASCI) is a multidisciplinary research network, based at University of Maryland. CASCI exists to facilitate research and education that advances our understanding of the technology, information, and organization approaches needed to realize the potential of 21st century communities to support learning, facilitate innovation, transform science and scholarship, promote economic development, and enhance individual and civic well-being.