What is the main theme of your thesis and are there any specific findings you would like to highlight?

Selene Ghisolfi

- My thesis investigates how to design poverty-reducing policies in developing countries in the best possible way, in a variety of settings.

- Two chapters look at whether the very common practice of requiring community contributions to local development projects is beneficial for the communities, and find that this practice decreases take-up and increases within-community inequality, using a lab in the field (ch. 1) and a field experiment building safe communal tubewell in Bangladesh (ch. 3). 

- I then find that such tubewells improve the quality of the water consumed by in the households only moderately (ch. 4). - In chapter 2, I find that Ugandan maize farmers' yields and profits improve if linked to a buyer who rewards quality of the produce. 

- Chapters 5 and 6 focus on designing optimal policies for the containment of the current COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries. I estimate that the fatality rate in developing countries is 1/3 of the fatalities estimated in developed countries (ch. 6) and that, due to lower fatality and a lower initial income level, optimal lockdowns should be much less stringent in developing countries. 

How does it feel now that your thesis is in print and successfully defended?

- Great! I'm really happy and really confident. The defense was really useful and enjoyable (and I would really like to thank my opponent, Aureo de Paula, for it!) and felt like the perfect end of my PhD, although unfortunately I could not meet everyone in person. I am excited about the future but I'm really going to miss this important part of my life!

What will you be up to in the near future?

- I started my post-doc position at LEAP (Laboratory for Effective Anti-poverty Policies at Bocconi, Milan) in March and am really happy of being part of this Lab, where I can further my work on poverty-alleviation policies, and also keep collaborating with my IIES coauthors!

What was it like to defend remotely?

- The defense was really nice, and I think I was calmer than if I had to defend in person. During the remote defense, I could concentrate on the opponent and the committee, as they were the only ones present on my screen. It was however very sad to not have a proper party and get together at the end, and I really hope to be able to have a nice get together soon! 

We are very grateful to have had Aureo de Paula from University College London (UCL) as opponent. Without his time and thorough commentary of Selene's thesis, the defense could not have taken place.

Good luck in Milan Selene, and stay safe! We look forward to follow your research for many years to come and hope you will be able to visit us soon!

Click here to download and read Selene's thesis.