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Associate Professor of Economics

Melanie Morten

Faculty Affiliate
King Center on Global Development

Associate Professor of Economics
Department of Economics

Senior Fellow
Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR)

Melanie Morten is a development economist and associate professor in the department of economics at Stanford University. She is a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the National Bureau for Economic Research.

Dr. Morten is interested in how households respond to risk in developing countries, including using short term and temporary migration. Her work has been published in numerous journals including the Journal of Police Economy and the World Bank Economic Review. She received her PhD from Yale and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.

Trade and Migration
Urbanization and Infrastructure



King Center Supported Research

2018 - 2019 Academic Year | Junior Faculty Research Grants

The Impact of Moral Hazard and Network-Based Hiring on Firm Performance

Due to a lack of well-functioning formal institutions, small entrepreneurs in developing countries face contracting problems. They often rely on their social networks—contacts, kin, and referrals—to hire workers and are reluctant to extend outside these networks. By needing to rely on networks to overcome frictions, owners encounter myriad repercussions, constraining their own size. This research involves two sets of experiments examining how the reliance on networks in the face of moral hazard affects equilibrium wages, profits, hiring matches, and expansion practices. Through survey, modeling, and field experiments of 400 small firms, the project will investigate the moral hazard associated with contracting problems in Bangalore. The first experiment randomizes firms into having incentives to temporarily expand, varying whether new apprentices are from the owner’s network or are strangers. The subsequent experiment sets up bicycle delivery franchises, recruiting managers to run these delivery service firms. The main results provide insight into how the composition of network-based workers affects moral hazard burden for small and large firms.

Tracking Study for Dar es Salaam Bus Rapid Transit Project

This research examines the impact of improving urban transportation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The project has several dimensions, including an ongoing longitudinal study and a set of experimental interventions that will provide randomized access to rapid bus systems. The data collected through these surveys and experiments will demonstrate the effects of improved public transportation in urban Tanzania on a range of economic, social and environmental indicators.