Rossa O'Keeffe-O'Donovan
Interests: Development Economics, Social Economics, Public Economics

My main field of interest is development economics. My job market paper uses a structural network model, and incorporates tools from IO and machine learning, to analyze the provision of water in Tanzania. 

I will be available for interviews at both the ASSA meetings in Chicago and the RES meetings in London.

My personal website is at

Job Market Paper

Water, Spillovers and Free Riding: Provision of Local Public Goods in a Spatial Network

Both the state and non-governmental organizations provide public goods in developing countries, potentially generating inefficiencies where they lack coordination. In rural Tanzania, more than 500 organizations have installed hand-powered water pumps in a decentralized fashion. I estimate the costs of this fragmented provision by studying how communities' pump maintenance decisions are shaped by strategic interactions between them. I model the maintenance of pumps as a network game between neighboring communities, and estimate this model using geo-coded data on the location, characteristics and functionality of water sources, and human capital outcomes. Estimation combines maximum simulated likelihood with a machine learning algorithm that partitions the data into geographic clusters. Using exogenous variation in the similarity of water sources to identify spillover and free riding effects between communities, I find evidence of maintenance cost-reduction spillovers among pumps of the same technology and strong water source free-riding incentives. As a result, standardization of pump technologies would increase pump functionality rates by 6 percentage points. Moreover, water collection fees discourage free riding and would increase pump functionality rates by 11 percentage points if adopted universally. This increased availability of water would have a modest positive effect on child survival and school attendance rates.


Strategic Interactions in the Estimation of Spillover Effects (with Daron Acemoglu and Camilo Garcia-Jimeno)

Recent improvements in program evaluation techniques have allowed researchers to estimate the effects of treatment on both participants (direct effects) and non-participants (spillover effects). However, this paper shows that in the presence of strategic interactions between individuals affected by the treatment, estimates of direct effects and spillover effects are biased. We propose a two-step procedure to test for and correct this bias. The first step is a simple regression-based test for strategic interactions. Conditional on finding evidence of strategic interactions, the second step uses a simple, parsimonious model to estimate the underlying structural parameters. When the treatment variable is continuous, the second step is a simple two-stage least squares regression and gives unbiased estimates of the direct and spillover effects. However, when treatment is binary, the approach requires a Heckman-style correction to ensure that the instrumental variable is valid when individuals choose whether to comply with their assignment to treatment. We apply our methodology to three recent papers, and discuss how it can be applied to other empirical contexts.

Teaching Experience

Teaching Assistant: Statistics for Economists (Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016)

Instructor: Statistics for Economists (Summer 2015, Summer 2016)

See for more details.


Awards and Fellowships

Joel Popkin Graduate Student Teaching Prize (2016), University of Pennsylvania

Thouron Award (2012-2014)

Fulbright Postgraduate Award (2012-2013)

Luca d'Agliano Prize, M.Sc. Economics for Development (2012), University of Oxford

George Webb Medley Prize, Best Undergraduate Economics Thesis (2010), University of Oxford


Selected Presentations

CSAE Conference (2016), University of Oxford

DEVPEC (2016), UC Berkeley

EconCon (2016), Princeton University

NEUDC (2015), Brown University


Prof. Camilo Garcia-Jimeno
Prof. Petra Todd
Prof. Jere Behrman
Prof. Francis DiTraglia (Teaching Reference)


I am on the job market and will be available for interviews at the RES meetings in London on Jan 3-4, and the AEA meetings in Chicago on Jan 6-8.