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Jeanne Lafortune

Affiliated Professor
Associate Professor Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

Jeanne Lafortune is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. Her primary fields of interest are labor and development economics, with a particular interest in family economics. Her research has, among various topics, looked at the relationship between marriage market conditions and human capital accumulation, the role of caste in the Indian marriage market, the impact of migration in early 20th century United States and the role of changing alimony rights of cohabiting partners. She is currently using randomized evaluations to study female training, financial literacy training and worker's safety programs.

Featured Affiliate Interview

I'd like to use randomized experiments to answer questions about how immigrants can best be integrated into their new countries.

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What got you interested in development economics?
When I started studying economics, I wanted to use it to save the world. My undergraduate experience was difficult in the sense that in many international development groups, economists were seen as the "bad guys" (this was the time of the IMF packages of the mid-late 1990s). I think I wanted to show that economics could really do some good.

What is one current research project that you are particularly excited about?
I'm particularly interested in how we can make poor people see the benefits of "formality" in their employment decisions. In one experiment, we use an ex-student as a role model in an entrepreneurship class to come and discuss how formalization and better financial management has been useful for them. In another one, we show individuals how much more pension wealth they would accumulate if they were to contribute to the official pension plan.

What is your dream evaluation? (It doesn't have to be feasible!)
I'd like to use randomized experiments to answer questions about how immigrants can best be integrated into their new countries. Most of the literature on immigration has focused on the impact this has on the receiving or the sending countries but we don't know much about how to make the experience more profitable for the migrants themselves who often are trying to escape poverty in their own country.

What is your most interesting story from the field?
We were rolling over this individual randomization in Chile and one of the mayors was really opposed to having his locality as part of the program because he was under the impression we had targeted him for political reasons and his management staff had told him we were doing something very unethical randomly electing participants among applicants. We went to dismiss his fears and by the end of the meeting, he actually suggested that most of the programs in his municipality should be randomized since it's so difficult to establish fair eligibility rules! Go JPAL!