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Martina Viarengo

Harvard University

Advanced Research Fellow
Associate Professor
Department of International Economics
The Graduate Institute, Geneva
Faculty Associate
Center for International Development
Harvard University
United States of America

PhD, Economic History
London School of Economics, 2007
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Research Focus
Martina Viarengo is an economist who works in the areas of public policy and economic development. Her research focuses on education and economic development, with an emphasis on the determinants of students’ learning outcomes in compulsory schooling. Her work in this area is to identify what works to improve the quality of education and to reduce inequality and disadvantage. She has been involved in several projects to develop an understanding of the institutional structure, incentives and resources that can improve educational attainment and make individuals more productive in the labor market.

My plans for the fellowship period
My recent research has started focusing on the role that education plays in preventing and combating youth unemployment, as well as on developing an understanding of how digital innovation and online learning programs can shape the future of learning, especially in those contexts were resources are limited. My objective for the fellowship period is to advance scientific knowledge on the determinants of educational attainment and learning outcomes in compulsory schooling in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on the Ivory Coast. Recent adoptions of compulsory schooling laws in the country, together with the complex institutional context in which they have occurred, make it an excellent situation in which to examine possible demand- and supply-side barriers to an effective implementation of the learning-oriented initiatives and educational reforms adopted.

How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives?
Cognitive abilities and skills are fundamental for improving individuals’ productivity, their living standards and well-being, and ultimately for affecting the pattern of economic growth and long-run development of countries. Gaps in cognitive skills by socio-economic status, residence and gender emerge in early childhood and increase during the educational cycle in the Ivory Coast as in many other developing countries. The aim of the research project is to advance scientific knowledge on the social and economic mechanisms that affect educational inequality, as well as on the existing demand- and supply-side barriers, in order to develop policies and interventions to promote learning in the population, and to reduce poverty and social inequalities. My work will rely on cutting-edge methodologies to advance scientific understanding in the areas of education, public policy and socio-economic development. I expect that findings from this work will inform future social and educational policies in the Ivory Coast, with implications for other developing countries facing similar challenges.

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