Dr Kate Orkin is Senior Research Fellow in Behavioural Economics 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. With Professor Stefan Dercon, 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 is an applied microeconomist, working in behavioural, labour and development 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 PhD work examined how information interventions alter beliefs about oneself and expectations about the future and, in turn, economic and political behaviour. Studies have shown that increasing aspirations can improve rates of savings, investment and technology adoption; that giving workseekers better information about their skills can improve their employment rates and earnings; and that better access to polling information can improve voter turnout.
Kate's current work examines the effect of integrating psychological interventions into asset transfer programmes. She is currently leading a randomised controlled trial in 420 villages examining the effects of combining an unconditional $1000 cash transfer with an intervention to increase recipients' aspirations and encourage goal-setting. Another current stream of work, in collaboration with Professor Alan Stein at the Oxford Department of Psychiatry and a team of psychiatrists, examines the effects of treating mental health disorders on economic behaviour and outcomes.
One of the Mind and Behaviour Research Group's aims is to develop and test scalable, high-impact interventions that can be used in programming and to support governments and NGOs in taking interventions to scale. Kate's teams have worked closely with national and local governments and NGOs, including GiveDirectly, the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and BRAC, to co-design and cost interventions. In the past, Kate has consulted for the World Bank and International Food Policy Research Institute.