Clément Imbert

Affiliated Professor
Assistant Professor of Economics University of Warwick

Clément Imbert is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick. His research focuses on governance and labor markets, specifically on the implementation and labor market effects of social programs. Clément holds a Ph.D. from the Paris School of Economics.

Featured Affiliate Interview

With my colleague in Warwick, Roland Rathelot (University of Warwick; J-PAL affiliate), I am starting a project to evaluate a large training and placement program funded by India’s Ministry of Rural Development. It is a hot topic: many countries are concerned with getting their rural workforce into urban jobs, and development economists are increasingly interested in the match between employers and workers.

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What got you interested in development economics?

Esther Duflo (MIT; Director, J-PAL; IPA affiliate) was teaching development economics in my master’s program at the Paris School of Economics. At that point, my interest was in labor markets and social programs in developed countries. I was looking for a research assistant position the year after, and she offered me work with her, Abhijit Banerjee (MIT; Director, J-PAL; IPA affiliate), Daniel Keniston (Yale; J-PAL affiliate) and Nina Singh (Central Bureau of Investigation) on the project with the Rajasthan police. I felt I was not qualified for the job: I had never been to a developing country before, nor to a police station! I accepted, and haven’t regretted it since.

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

With my colleague in Warwick, Roland Rathelot (University of Warwick; J-PAL affiliate), I am starting a project to evaluate a large training and placement program funded by India’s Ministry of Rural Development. It is a hot topic: many countries are concerned with getting their rural workforce into urban jobs, and development economists are increasingly interested in the match between employers and workers. It is also exciting for me personally: I have been working on labor markets in India for a while, and done some randomized evaluations there too, but it is the first time I am doing one focused on a labor market intervention.

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

I wrote two papers with John Papp (Princeton; IPA affiliate) on the equilibrium effects of a large workfare program, India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). The first paper shows that the program increases local wages. Since it is based on the roll-out of the NREGS, which is not random, it was difficult to convince referees that the effects were real. A couple of recent randomized evaluations have since confirmed our results. The second paper estimates the spatial spillover effects of the program on rural to urban migration and urban labor markets across the country. The corresponding evaluation has not yet been run.

Any other story/news you'd like to share with us, or hope for ongoing or future scale-ups with partners?

We have now completed the project in Bihar, and showed that a reform of the fund flow which replaces middlemen with a computerized system can substantially cut down corruption. But while the intervention was going on, there was substantial push back from the administration, partly because it was a new system, partly because it reduced opportunities for stealing, so the state government decided to end the evaluation. The central government however, who bears the cost of the program and is very concerned about fund leakages, later instituted the reform nationally, and extended it to other programs.