Petra Elisabeth Todd

Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor | Economics

Petra Todd is an empirical economist with research contributions in the area of labor economics, economics of education, development, econometrics, criminology, and demography. She is best known for her work on program evaluation methods, which develops methods for evaluating the effects of interventions in education and training using both experimental and nonexperimental data. She has recently finished a book manuscript Impact Evaluation in Developing Countries: Theory, Methods and Practice, coauthored with Paul Glewwe. (commissioned by the World Bank and currently under review.)

One of Petra Todd’s areas of expertise is matching methods. In the US and Europe, these statistics/econometric techniques are often used to evaluate the impact of Active Labor Market programs, which are government programs that provide education, training, and incentives for unemployed or out of labor force workers to gain employment. In developing country settings, the methods are often used to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs, such as conditional cash transfer programs. Petra Todd has also written seminal papers on regression-discontinuity (RD) methods. RD is a quasi-experimental design where there is a variable and a cut-off value that wholly or partly determines treatment assignment.

In addition to her work on nonexperimental evaluation methods, Todd has also participated in several randomized experimental evaluations. She was an expert consultant in designing the Progresa experiment that randomized 506 rural villages in or out of a conditional transfer program. She also played a key role in the design of the ALI experiment in Mexico that randomized 88 high schools to a student and teacher incentive program that paid for improvement on mathematics curriculum tests. The program impacts are analyzed in Behrman, Parker, Todd and Wolpin (2015) and the data are used to study the determinants of educational performance in Todd and Wolpin (forthcoming, 2017).

In her most recent research, Petra Todd develops new methods for predicting the impacts of programs that do not yet exist, which is very useful at the stage of designing a new social program or in considering changes to an existing program. She is currently engaged in a project modeling the school-going decisions and test score outcomes for children/youth in Mexico and Portugal. Todd also some recent papers that analyze the role of personality traits in educational and working decisions and in time allocation of husbands and wives. She also has research papers on topics related to interventions to reduce HIV transmission in Africa.