Dr Kate Orkin is Associate Professor in Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and a Supernumerary Fellow of Merton College. Prior to this, she was a Junior Research Fellow at Merton College. Kate completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town. She did her MPhil and DPhil at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, finishing in 2015.
Kate is an applied microeconomist, working in labour, public, development and behavioural economics. She mainly runs large field experiments in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and South Africa, developing and testing real-world interventions in partnership with governments and NGOs. Her research is in four main areas: frictions in urban developing country labour markets that prevent young people finding work and interventions that can reduce these frictions; the role of mental health in labour market decisions and how treatments for mental health improve labour market outcomes; the design of cash transfer and wage subsidy programmes; and how interventions to boost aspirations alter beliefs about oneself and expectations about the future and, in turn, economic and political behaviour.
With Professor Stefan Dercon and Professor Alan Stein, Kate leads the Mind and Behaviour Research Group in the Centre for the Study of African Economies, hosted by the Blavatnik School. This is a network of economists, psychiatrists and psychologists applying psychology to inform the design of programmes which either reduce poverty or improve governance and service delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Kate has worked extensively at the interface of research and policy in taking successful evidence-based interventions to scale. She and her team have worked closely with national and local governments and NGOs, including GiveDirectly, the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and BRAC, to co-design, test and cost interventions, and then build delivery systems and political will for scale-up. In the past, Kate has done policy advisory work for the South African Presidency, World Bank and International Food Policy Research Institute.