The Advanced Graduate Workshop (AGW), led by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, is organised by Azim Premji University and the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET).
The first edition of AGW was held in 2006. Ever since, this interdisciplinary workshop has played a major role in nurturing young researchers who engage critically with issues related to economic development, globalisation and poverty. It seeks to identify the complex interactions that influence well-being, development and growth.
Given the enormous challenges facing the global and Indian economy and the need for a great variety of initiatives at multiple levels to resolve them, the first step is to build a new generation of scholars and practitioners that understand and engage with these issues.
To that end, over the years this workshop has created a space for an interdisciplinary group of scholars at the advanced stages of their PhD dissertations from all over the world to collaboratively engage in these issues with each other and with leading academics and practitioners.
This year’s Advanced Graduate Workshop (AGW 2022) had 25 student participants. Divided into groups of 6 – 7 members, about 50% of these students were from Indian universities and the other half came from foreign Universities. For the participants, it offered a good platform to connect and discuss a range of issues and acquire different perspectives from each other, thus widening their horizons and area for research.
The Group Leaders (GL), who are typically early career academics and lead the smaller groups of students, play a critical role in guiding the participants, both in terms of their research as well as presentations.
The workshop typically has two distinct parts. Firstly, a series of lectures given by leading scholars and practitioners will deal with a range of economic, political and social issues pertaining to development, poverty and globalisation.
Secondly, students will refine their research and presentation skills within assigned small groups under the guidance of faculty leaders in preparation for a culminating workshop-wide presentation of their research.
Here’s a glimpse into each day of the AGW 2022:
Day 1 (11 July 2022):
Jayati Ghosh, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, spoke on how global inequality leads to climate change. The session highlighted discussions around how to act upon global climate change, the difficulties in the same and how the rich countries continue to push the burden of climate change on the poor countries when, in reality, the rich countries continue to be a dominant reason for global climate change.
Day 2 (12 July 2022): Gabriella Carolini, Associate Professor, Urban Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, spoke about the nuances of field experiments by highlighting how one can think of research questions from a bottom-up approach instead of having a fixed research question in mind with which one would go to the field. Rather, she said, let the questions evolve as you interact with your subjects.
This was followed by another lecture on urban planning, giving a case of an African city that she worked on. The talk focused on the economics, sociology and politics of urban planning, combined with how to think of research in the field when you go to the field and do qualitative research. In essence, one could understand ways to democratise research.
Akbar Noman, Adjunct Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University and Senior Fellow at Initiative for Policy Dialogues, co-organiser, and one of the founders of the workshop, gave a broad overview of development, its different trajectories, with particular focus on East Asia. He elaborated upon how different policies lead to different kinds of development.
Day 3 (13 July 2022):
Juan Camilo Cárdenas, Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst, shared his experience of conducting vast experiments. From summarising the evidence received from different experiments across Latin America to the general political and social aspects of running such experiments – there was much for the participants to gather.
On one hand, he talked about the evidence accumulated from field experiments, and how such experiments may or may not inform us about human behaviour, and/or alters some of it and on the other, he talked about how such interventions may not at all take into account (or positively impact) the ‘rules of the game’ determined by structures such as patriarchal norms, racial inequalities, distribution of power, etc. He shared his research on how to think beyond individual-level interventions, and bridge the gap between individual and structural framework of experiments. In his lectures, he also referred to the collective action for common good and the research work of Prof Elinor Ostrom in this space.
Day 4 (14 July 2022):
Arvind Subramanian, former Chief Economic Advisor of India, presented the overall trajectory of India’s economic growth over the past 75 years. He had his views and ways of analysing the same. He mentioned how the License Raj is a problem often ignored by development economists while analysing the Indian economic growth story and in his second lecture, he spoke about the Lewis model of development, which India used to follow until the 1970s and whether that caused India’s growth to stagnate.
Devesh Kapur, University of Pennsylvania and Amit Basole, Centre for Sustainable Employment, Azim Premji University, spoke on higher education in India and the issues in quality and how it relates to the social identities in India with regard to caste, gender etc.
Amit Basole presented cumulative evidence from his own research as well as the research by Centre for Sustainable Employment, and why India did not experience a structural transformation as such. He investigated the processes that delay the process of structural transformation and also questioned certain ideas that we have around industrialisation and the traditional views on transformation. His take on the matter, which includes the role of social identities (among other channels) as a barrier to structural transformation, was radically opposite to Arvind Subramanian’s views.
It was an interesting intellectual engagement for the students to have a good exposure to different worldviews on the issue of growth and transformation.
Day 5 (15 July 2022):
Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz (Twitter:@JosephEStiglitz) talked about the effects of neoliberalism and trade liberalisation, including asymmetries in the distribution of power and how the role of intellectual property rights in certain markets have affected the masses during the COVID-19 pandemic. He then engaged with questions from the audience that ranged from migrant workers to the role of institutions in different parts of the world.
Maitreesh Ghatak, Professor of Economics, London School of Economics, started the session with a discussion on poverty traps caused by two important factors: cognitive traits and social capital.
He raised the question of why helping people through transfers (whether cash or kind) may or may not be a good intervention and thus it is imperative to understand when it helps and when it does not and more importantly, on how do we determine the same.
The threshold beyond which interventions are meaningful, depends on the context, so that comes down to what exactly is the social and economic positioning of the village or the city you are in. 4 cows or 4,000 rupees, what is working and what may not — there are ways in which one can figure out these.
His second lecture was an investigation into the operations of credit markets, including the microfinance sector.
The week also included presentations from the Group leaders (GLs), who are early career academics. These presentations were based on their own research, unlike the broad lectures.
Leila Gautham, Assistant Professor at the Economics Department, University of Leeds, spoke on unpaid care work in the US context, the burden of which often lies on the woman.
Mrinalini Jha, faculty, Jindal Global University, presented the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, including patterns of recovery.
Surbhi Kesar, faculty, SOAS University of London, talked about the impacts and contradictions emerging from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, from a Marxian political economy approach. Tony Kurian, who is completing his PhD from Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Mumbai, and works in the area of Economic Sociology in the agricultural market, made a strong case for why the economists failed in their predictions regarding products identified as high-return Agricultural Futures.
Day 6 (18 July 2022)
Hema Swaminathan, faculty at the Centre for Public Policy, IIM Bangalore, brought out a lot of nuances from the gender lens in economics research, particularly when it comes to the question of measurement and data. In the process, the students were given an opportunity to think beyond gender as just a dummy variable and how to actually engage with gender as a social category, understanding all its nuances, understanding how it operates differently in different contexts while threaded together by forms of patriarchy.
Lakshmi Iyer, Economic Historian, University of Notre Dame, spoke on how identity is central to the questions of political economy. She provided examples from all across the world, including India. She highlighted how identity of the elected representative may matter for policies, for example, how the women-elected heads of village are often more likely to pursue policies that are women-friendly.
Ravinder, a doctoral student at the Economics and Planning Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi Centre presented a paper titled ‘Transforming Rural Economies Through Tertiary Education: Evidence from India’ that estimates the impact of tertiary education (graduate education and above) on the rural economy, highlighting how higher education can also affect the rural economy positively.
Post this, Praveena Bandara, a fourth-year PhD student in Economics at American University, Washington DC, presented her project on ‘Export Re-specialisation: A Descriptive Analysis’ which assesses whether countries re-specialise into a similar product basket — in terms of average technology intensity of production — to the product basket before re-specialisation. Though some studies focus on changes in comparative advantage, the current literature does not establish a relationship between export re-specialisation and a country’s technological sophistication level.
Day 7 (19 July 2022)
Lakshmi Iyer, Economic Historian, University of Notre Dame, spoke on the larger legacy of colonialism and how the impacts of the same differ across the colonies. For example, she spoke on how different institutions implemented by the colonial rulers, like dividing the masses along ethnic lines, slavery, coercion of labour, etc. impact the people of the colony in the long run.
Rajeev Sethi, Professor of Economics, Columbia University, spoke about how race-based residential segregation may become a stable equilibrium even when people prefer to be integrated. He then explained how segregation and group-level income inequality continue to be strongly related, and often determine each other through social networks.
Rajeev spoke about meritocracy in his second lecture where he pushed the audience to think of different benchmarks in academic institutions or jobs, where diversity in representation from different groups could be achieved without altering the efficiency and quality of education.
Post this, Vikrant Kamble, School of Economics, Georgia Institute of Technology, presented a paper on ‘Benefits to agriculture from an afforestation Programme: Evidence from India’. In his job market paper evaluating one of the ambitious afforestation projects in Rajasthan, he finds that this programme helped farmers increase agricultural activities in the region.
Benston John, a third-year doctoral student at the Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics and an Assistant Professor of Economics, St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University presented his ongoing work (done jointly with his supervisor, Prof. Rohini Somanathan), titled ‘Whose turn is it? Intra-household allocation of Housework in Indian Households’. Here, they study the determinants of intra-household allocation of housework and time use in general among Indian households using the exogeneous nature of the COVID-19 pandemic-induced national lockdown.
Carlos Santiago Guzmán Gutiérrez, Associate Economist, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Colombia, presented an article titled ‘Implications of financial literacy on retirement planning decisions: Evidence from Colombia’. This article evaluates the effects of receiving financial education on retirement planning in the Colombian context. To this end, he uses a law adopted in 2016 by the Colombian government known as the “Doble Asesoría”, in which personalised information is provided to those who wish to switch from their pension régime.
DAY 8 (20 July 2022)
Rohini Somanathan, Delhi School of Economics, spoke about Challenges in measuring identity particularly the mis-measurement of the same across the globe. In her second lecture, she spoke about the work of one of her PhD students, Hemanshu Kumar, who studied the case of the Mahadalits of Bihar.
Maria Del Pilar Lopez Uribe, one of the co-organisers of the workshop, presented her doctoral work in Economic History which looks at the relationship between the state and the social movements in Colombia, particularly the relationship between democratic reforms and redistribution during periods of revolutionary threat.
The workshop also had a session to discuss Women in Economics, where Maria Del Pilar Lopez Uribe presented evidence on the status of women’s representation in Economics, both at the level of students and faculty. In the same session, Surbhi Kesar, reflected critically on the identity of Economics as a discipline, and how the discipline’s identity may in itself become a barrier for achieving higher representation from historically marginalized identities, including gender.
Post this, Jessica Thacker, a PhD research scholar at the Faculty of Economics, South Asian University presented on ‘Financial Fragility and Firm Exit: Critically Examining the Channels for the Registered Indian Manufacturing Firms’. In this study, she investigates the non-optimising behaviour with respect to profits for firms, using empirical evidence from dairy and grain-milling sub-sectors of food processing in India.
This was followed by Sanchari Choudhury, a PhD research scholar at Colorado State University, USA, presenting on ‘Tradeoffs in India due to Liberalised Capital Flows’. Her study specifically focuses on analysing trends and components of capital flows to India and their macroeconomic implications, especially in the Gender context, due to liberalisation and relaxation of capital controls in India. The chain of arguments laid out throughout the paper hinges on the loss of monetary policy autonomy for India in the face of liberalisation of trade and capital flows along with effectively pegged exchange rates.
Jitendra Singh, a PhD candidate in Economics, Ashoka University, Sonipat, through ‘Holy Cow! Religious violence, cattle markets and externalities in India’, presented how religious violence breaks down informal markets, with economic costs for large sections in India.
Angarika, a PhD candidate at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi, presented on ‘Flexibility vs Investment: What explains employment growth in Indian Manufacturing’. Using a fixed effects panel regression model with two independent variables — “inflexibility” in the labour market and rate of investment, her paper attempts to understand their relative importance in explaining employment growth in the organised manufacturing sector in India. The data used for this analysis was a state-industry panel dataset from the Annual Survey of Industries for fifteen years from 2000-01 to 2014 – 15 at the 3‑digit level of industry classification.
DAY 9 (21 July 2022)
Day 9 saw presentations by 10 students, namely, Praveen Kumar from Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi Centre, Mateo Hoyos from University of Massachusetts Amherst, Nikita Sangwan from Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi Centre, Jennifer Opare-Kumi from University of Oxford, Paul Shaloka from University of Notre Dame, Wilfried Fetseu Kamguia from African School of Economics, Meeta Kumar from Delhi School of Economics, Tanieem Noor Darvesh from Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIM Bangalore), Anuj Goyal from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Julián Acevedo-Pardo from University of Mississippi.
The topics ranged from the impact of unrestricted power on groundwater to the domestic effects of a female-targeted migration ban; covering issues like tariffs and growth; climate change, labour and farm productivity; foundational learning and mental health; state reputation, workers’ trust, and labour informality in Latin America.
The coming together of students from various parts of the world gave a platform for the participants to understand different perspectives coming from different walks of life.
Day 10 (22 July 2022)
The last day of the workshop witnessed presentations by Divya Singh, Delhi School of Economics, who presented on ‘Mother tongue as the medium of instruction’. She has especially been interested in the effects of mother-tongue instruction on learning outcomes and would like to study this policy in the state of Orissa, which has multiple language groups and where the state has introduced policies for own-language instruction in some areas of the state.
This was followed by Sayoree Gooptu, Jadavpur University, on ‘Measurement of overeducation and its determinants: The Indian case’. There is a growing concern of misallocation of skills across the world as it results in wastage of resources and loss of demographic dividend which eventually reduces the welfare of an economy. Her paper tries to calculate a measure of overeducation using the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), 2018 – 19 in India for elementary occupations.
The study by Liuyang He, National University of Singapore, explored how political incentives can facilitate the implementation of equity-targeted public policies and how officials maintain a balance between equity and economic efficiency in local governance in China, serving as an exemplar for other developing countries.
Darpajit Sengupta, Jadavpur University, captured the effect of nominal exchange rate fluctuations on the price of India’s export products through his presentation titled ‘Product heterogenity and exchange rate pass through.’
Know what the attendees had to say about the Advanced Graduate Workshop:
- Here’s what Vikrant Kamble had to say about the Advanced Graduate Workshop: https://twitter.com/vikrantkamble/status/1551021582952595456
- Here’s what Arvind Subramaniam had to say about the Advanced Graduate Workshop: https://twitter.com/arvindsubraman/status/1551030692376481792
- Here’s what Will had to say about the Advanced Graduate Workshop: https://twitter.com/Will0243/status/1551116955888676864
- Here’s what Nikita Sangwan had to say about the Advanced Graduate Workshop: https://twitter.com/nikita_sang/status/1552215340738056193
Advanced Graduate Workshop in pictures
(With inputs from Tamoghna Haldar, Faculty, Azim Premji University)