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Heterogeneous Impact Dynamics of a Rural Business Development Program in Nicaragua

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  • Michael R. Carter
  • Emilia Tjernström
  • Patricia Toledo

Abstract

We study the impacts of a rural development program designed to boost the income of the smallfarm sector in Nicaragua. Exploiting the random assignment of treatment, we find statistically and economically significant impacts on gross farm income and investment in productive farm capital. Using continuous treatment estimation techniques, we examine the evolution of program impacts over time and find that the estimated income increase persists and that the impacts on productive capital stock continue to rise even after the program concluded. Additionally, panel quantile methods reveal striking heterogeneity of program impacts on both income and investment. We show that this heterogeneity is not random and that there appear to exist low-performing household types who benefit little from the program, whereas high-performing (upper quantile) households benefit more substantially. Analysis using generalized random forests, a machine learning algorithm, points toward greater program impacts for households who were disadvantaged at baseline. Even after controlling for this source of heterogeneity, we find large and persistent differences in how much different types of households benefited from the program. While the benefit-cost ratio of the program is on average positive, the impact heterogeneity suggests that business development programs aiming to engage farm households as agricultural entrepreneurs have limitations as instruments to eliminate rural poverty.

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  • Michael R. Carter & Emilia Tjernström & Patricia Toledo, 2016. "Heterogeneous Impact Dynamics of a Rural Business Development Program in Nicaragua," NBER Working Papers 22628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22628
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    Cited by:

    1. Kayo MURAKAMI & Hideki SHIMADA & Yoshiaki USHIFUSA & Takanori IDA, 2020. "Heterogeneous Treatment Effects of Nudge and Rebate:Causal Machine Learning in a Field Experiment on Electricity Conservation," Discussion papers e-20-003, Graduate School of Economics , Kyoto University.
    2. Mullally, Conner & Chakravarty, Shourish, 2018. "Are matching funds for smallholder irrigation money well spent?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 70-80.
    3. Barrett, Christopher B. & Carter, Michael R., 2020. "Finding our balance? Revisiting the randomization revolution in development economics ten years further on," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 127(C).
    4. Sabahi, Sima & Parast, Mahour Mellat, 2020. "The impact of entrepreneurship orientation on project performance: A machine learning approach," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 226(C).
    5. Rob Kuijpers, 2019. "Value Chain Development as Public Policy: Conceptualization and Evidence from the Agri-Food Sector in Bangladesh," LICOS Discussion Papers 41419, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
    6. Ebata, Ayako & Hernandez, Manuel A., 2017. "Linking smallholder farmers to markets on extensive and intensive margins: Evidence from Nicaragua☆," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 34-44.
    7. Joshua W. Deutschmann & Maya Duru & Kim Siegal & Emilia Tjernström, 2019. "Can Smallholder Extension Transform African Agriculture?," NBER Working Papers 26054, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets
    • Q13 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Markets and Marketing; Cooperatives; Agribusiness

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