Kate Orkin

Kate Orkin

Associate Professor in Economics and Public Policy

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.



Journal articles

John, A. and K. Orkin. 2022. 'Can Simple Psychological Interventions Improve Preventive Health Investments?' Journal of the European Economic Association. 20(3): 1001–1047.

Garlick, R., K. Orkin, S. Quinn. 2020. 'Call Me Maybe: Experimental Evidence on Using Mobile Phones to Survey Microenterprises.' World Bank Economic Review, 34(2): 418–443. Pre-analysis plan. Questionnaires. Funding from PEDL.

Tol, W., S. Murray, C. Lund, P. Bolton, L. Murray, T. Davies, J. Haushofer, K. Orkin, M. Witte, L. Salama, V. Patel, G. Thornicroft, J. Bass. 2019. 'Can Mental Health Treatments Help Prevent or Reduce Intimate Partner Violence in Low- and Middle-Income Countries? A Systematic Review.' BMC Women's Health, 19(1): 34-49.

Esopo, K., D. Mellow, C. Thomas, H. Uckat, J. Abraham, P. Jain, C. Jang, N. Otis, M. Riis-Vestergaard, A. Starcev, K. Orkin*, J. Haushofer*. 2018. 'Measuring Self-Efficacy, Executive Function, and Temporal Discounting in Kenya.' Behaviour, Research and Therapy, 101: 30-45. (*denotes equal contribution).

Orkin, K. 2011. 'See First, Think Later, Then Test': How Economists Researching Children in Developing Countries Can Mix Methods.' European Journal of Development Research, 23 (5): 774–791.

Orkin, K. 2010. 'In the Best Interests of the Child? Legislation on Children's Work in Rural Ethiopia.' Journal of International Development, 22 (8): 1102–1114. Pre-publication version. Audio of talk at Copeland Colloquium 2010/11 at Amherst College.

Conference proceedings

Bernard, T., Dercon, S., Orkin, K. and Seyoum Taffesse, A. 2019. 'Parental Aspirations for Children’s Education – Is There a 'Girl Effect'? Experimental Evidence from Rural Ethiopia.' American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings, 109 (May): 127-132. Research summary.

Bernard, T., Dercon, S., Orkin, K. and Seyoum Taffesse, A. 2015. 'Will Video Kill the Radio Star? Assessing the Potential of Targeted Exposure to Role Models through Video.World Bank Economic Review ABCDE Papers and Proceedings, 29 (1): S226-S237.

Book chapters / policy articles

Gerard, F., C. Imbert, K. Orkin. 2020. 'Social Protection Response to the COVID-19 Crisis: Options for Developing Countries.' Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 36(S1): S281–S296. VoxDev podcast, oped.

Orkin, K. 2012. 'Are Work and Schooling Complementary or Competitive for Children in Rural Ethiopia?' In Bourdillon, M. and Boyden, J. (eds.), Children Growing Up in Poverty: Multidisciplinary Approaches (Basingstoke: Palgrave): 298-315. 

Orkin, K., Yadete, W. A., Woodhead, M. 2012. 'Delivering Quality Early Learning in Low-Resource Settings: Progress and Challenges in Ethiopia.' Bernard van Leer Foundation Monographs in Early Childhood Development (59; The Hague: Bernard van Leer Foundation): 1-88.