novafrica@novasbe.pt

“People of NOVAFRICA: Stefan Leeffers”

Stefan Leeffers, from the Netherlands, is a husband, father of three daughters, a consultant at the World Bank and a PhD candidate in Economics at Nova School of Business and Economics. He received his bachelor’s degree in Economics from Tilburg University, but it was his volunteering experience that led him to focus on development economics. In the end, Stefan chose Nova SBE and the INSPER University in São Paulo, Brazil, to pursue a Master’s in Economics, with the intent of learning Portuguese, a widely spoken language in the African continent.                   

Stefan   Leeffers, from the Netherlands, is a husband, father of three daughters, a consultant at the World Bank and a PhD candidate in Economics at Nova School of Business and Economics. He received his bachelor’s degree in Economics from Tilburg University, but it was his volunteering experience that led him to focus on development economics. In the end, Stefan chose Nova SBE and the INSPER University in São Paulo, Brazil, to pursue a Master’s in Economics, with the intent of learning Portuguese, a widely spoken language in the African continent.

During his master’s, Stefan participated in his first field experiment. He coordinated field teams in the endline survey of a project in Mozambique, whose data would later be used in Batista and Vicente (Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming). This research project studies the consequences of introducing mobile money in rural Mozambique. This experience allowed Stefan to not only learn Portuguese, but ultimately led him to realize that he wanted to pursue a PhD.

Stefan’s main research interests surround development economics, environmental economics, behavioral economics, as well as political economy. His research perfectly reflects these areas.

One of the first papers Stefan coauthored came in 2018. Jointly with Professor Pedro Vicente, he studied what would be the impact of electoral observers, domestic and international, on Mozambique’s 2009 general elections. This paper, “Does Electoral Observation influence electoral results? Experimental Evidence for Domestic and International observers in Mozambique”, was published in World Development. With the aim of reducing electoral fraud, observers were randomly assigned during the 2009 elections, and, while domestic observers stayed in the same ballot table for the whole day, international observers circulated across several ballot locations. The hypotheses being tested with this experiment consisted in the reduction of ballot fraud due to the presence of electoral observers, and that this reduction would be larger in some provinces than in others, according to the dominant party in the region. Another hypothesis that was tested was that the presence of electoral observers may have led to a shift of fraudulent activities to polling locations without an observer. Finally, this research also tested if the presence of domestic fixed observers reduced ballot fraud more than the presence of international mobile observers. The objective was to test what was the effect of the observer on the levels of turnout, invalid votes and blank votes. By using the electoral results for the 2004 and 2009 elections, Leeffers and Vicente found that domestic observers had a significant effect in discouraging ballot fraud, given that ballot box stuffing and the validation of blank notes seemed to be prevented. Nevertheless, no evidence was found that international observers could deter ballot fraud. This ambiguity in the results can be explained by the fact that international organizations select convenient districts to place their observers.

Another stream of literature that Stefan has contributed to is education. He participated in a research project in Angola, which aimed at involving the community, particularly the parents, in children’s education. The main findings of this project will be embodied in a forthcoming paper, “Mobilizing Parents at Home and at School: An African experiment on primary education”, Di Maro et al. (2022).  The experiment included three treatment arms: an information campaign at home, parents’ meetings at the school level and a cross-treatment combination of both. This study was conducted in primary schools in the Angolan province of Kwanza Sul and the data was obtained through surveys, administrative data, and direct observation. This research project additionally designed and developed lab-in-the-field experiments with both parents and teachers. The authors distinguished four types of treatment effects: a direct treatment effect on parents and an indirect treatment effect on: school management and facilities; teachers’ behavior (namely teachers’ absenteeism and their performance as perceived by parents);  and student performance. The results showed that the information campaign increased parents’ involvement at home, but no impact was found on the engagement with the schools, while the meetings had the opposite effects. Only the combination of both treatments improved school management and facilities, teachers’ behavior, and parents’ satisfaction. Some of the games conducted in the lab-in-the-field experiment include a public goods game, a modified dictator game and a trust game aiming at measuring social cohesion and trust in teachers. The detailed results of the modified dictator game performed in the lab-in-the-field experiment will be included in a separate forthcoming paper  .

Through his work with the World Bank , Stefan developed an interest in disaster management. He is mostly working as a consultant in the Caribbean islands. Some of his contribute includes a Post-Disaster Needs Assessment, that aimed at evaluating the impact of the recent outbreak of Covid-19 in the Dutch island, Bonaire, and a Sustainable Development report.

Read more here.

Text by Andreia Novais (MSc. In Economics)
Revision by Alice Dellavalle (MSc. In Economics)