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Lisa Cameron

Affiliated Professor
Professorial Research Fellow University of Melbourne

Lisa Cameron is a Professorial Research Fellow at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne. Her research explores questions related to education, health, and labor markets, focusing often on the effects of social programs on children, migrants, and the elderly. Her recent work includes an impact evaluation of a large scale sanitation program in Indonesia, an assessment of attitudes toward risk in the wake of natural disasters, and an analysis of the behavioral impacts of China's One Child Policy.

Cameron holds a PhD in Economics from Princeton University. She has worked closely with the World Bank and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to conduct research and provide policy consultation. In 2014, she was inducted into the Australian Academy of Social Sciences.

Featured Affiliate Interview

I love traveling and learning about other places and that is what originally drew me to development economics. I started working on Indonesia while I was a graduate student at Princeton. I chose Indonesia because I am Australian and Indonesia is our largest and, in many respects, our most important neighbor.

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What got you interested in development economics, and particularly in education, health, and labor markets mostly in Indonesia and China?

I love traveling and learning about other places and that is what originally drew me to development economics. I started working on Indonesia while I was a graduate student at Princeton. I chose Indonesia because I am Australian and Indonesia is our largest and, in many respects, our most important neighbor. Indonesia is a great place to work on because there is so much diversity, so much going on, and relatively good statistical information. I have now learned the language which gives me great pleasure.

I started working on China about 5 years ago. My children go to a bilingual English-Mandarin school so that meant to keep up their Chinese we really had to go to China. I spent a sabbatical at Peking University which was great and I started learning Mandarin myself (not too successfully). China is culturally intriguing and there is so much change to study.

What is one current research project that you're particularly excited about?

I am currently working on a project with sex-workers in Indonesia (with Manisha Shah at UCLA and Jennifer Muz at UC Irvine). It started out as an RCT but after we'd conducted our baseline survey the government decided to close all formal sex work sites in the area so reality intervened. After much initial distress we realized it was an opportunity to examine what happens to the women's lives when such decisions are made. We managed to track many of the women in our endline and are finding very interesting, if saddening, consequences of the work site closures.

What is your "dream evaluation"? (It doesn't have to be feasible!)

I don't think I have a "dream evaluation," I am too busy with the ones I have on the go to "dream." Maybe one that gets done by itself!

What is your most memorable story from the field?

I have learnt a lot from the sex-workers I have met in Indonesia. The ones I have met appear resilient, strong women who have had to make difficult decisions. Most are in this field of work because they have been let down by the men in their lives. Talking to them has produced many memorable moments. My other most memorable moment is somewhat more flippant - I followed our Indonesian research assistant into an Indonesian day spa and blithely said I'd have the same treatment as her. I ended up coming out with my eyelashes curled within an inch of their short lives and an allergic reaction to the chemicals used which meant I couldn't see much, including the survey documents, during our next two days of piloting.