Research Centre ´´Poverty, Equity and Growth in Developing Countries´´

Prof. Marcela Ibañez Diaz, Ph.D.

Prof. Behavioral Development Economics


  • 2003-2007 University of Gothenburg, Sweden. PhD in Economics. Dissertation title: Social Dilemmas: the role of incentives, norms and institutions.Supervisors: Fredrik Carlsson and Hakan Eggert. November, 2007

  • 1995-1997 Universidad de los Andes, Colombia. Master in Economics, Dissertation title: Survival of informal production forms: a formal approximation. Supervisor: Samuel Jaramillo. April 1997

  • 1991-1995 Universidad de los Andes, Colombia. BA Economics, April 1995


My main research interests are Behavioral Development Economics, Labor Economics and Policy Evaluation.

One of the main areas of my research focuses on the investigation of the drivers of the production of illegal drugs in Colombia. Unlike most of the research on this area, my research focuses on the micro-economic analysis of coca cultivation decisions. My research is innovative as I consider the effect of non-monetary factors that can affect the cultivation decisions: mainly, risk preferences, morality, religiosity and legitimacy of the state.

The results of our studies indicate that coca cultivation is inelastic to increases in perceived risk and relative profit so currently used anti-drug policies have a rather small effect on cultivation (Ibanez and Martinsson, 2013; Ibanez, 2013; Ibanez and Carlsson, 2010).

Interestingly, our results show that non-monetary factors determine coca cultivation decisions which suggest that persuasive communication could be a promising alternative policy in the fight against drugs. We test this hypothesis and find that messages that make the relation of coca with violence salient were the most effective at reducing coca investments. The main mechanism at play seems to be attitudinal change rather than a change in beliefs on social norm (Ibanez and Vasquez, 2015).

Ongoing work, examines whether a
public policy can be used as an instrument to educate citizens by expressing social values towards what is right or wrong (Ibanez and Vasquez, 2015 and Vasquez and Ibanez, 2015). We focus on the Forest Warden Families Program, the country?s flagship alternative development program. The results of the two sets of experiments indicate that beneficiaries of the program invest less in coca, are more likely to establish mechanisms of social control and are more honest than a control group of future beneficiaries of the program.

Another topic I have address in my research is related with the determinants of female segregation in labor markets. First, we investigate the effectiveness of affirmative action policies (also known as equal opportunity policies) in promoting gender equity in the work place using three large field experiments in Colombia (Ibanez, Rai, Riener, 2015). Our main finding is that affirmative action encourages women to apply to job positions? and this does not come at the expense of reducing male applications. Second, I study the drivers of female under-representation in the role of norm enforcement. In joint work with Edward Asiedu we investigate the hypothesis that women are underrepresented as norm enforcers due to a lower ability to influence others (Asiedu and Ibanez, 2014). By comparing societies that differ in the inheritance rights of men and women, we trace the origins of such difference. The results of a public good game with third party punishment conducted in Ghana indicate that in patriarchal societies there are persistent gender differences in social influence while in matrilineal societies these differences are smaller. In a related study, we investigate whether gender segregation in the enforcement of social norms is due gender differences in willingness to volunteer to take the role of norm enforcer (Banerjee, Ibanez, Riener, Wollni, 2014). We consider whether these differences are innate or are driven by social factors by implementing a experiment in matrilineal and patriarchal societies in India. Our findings indicate that segregation in the enforcement of social norms is due to conformity to pre-assigned gender roles across cultures.

Through my research I focus on policy relevant questions. For example I study the environmental and economic impacts of organic certification in Colombia finding that certification improves coffee growers? environmental performance but has not economic benefit for producers which could deter the further expansion of this market (Ibanez and Blackman, 2015).  I also investigate the trade-off between conservation and equity considerations in the use of payments for environmental services -PES- (Vorlaufer, Ibanez, Juanda and Wollni, 2015). The main findings of the framed field experiment conducted in the Jambi province (Indonesia) indicate that PES schemes that follow a Rawlsian distributional principle in which poorer participants receive a larger payment than richer participants can realign the income distribution in favor of low-endowed farmers and does not necessarily need to be compromised by lower conservation of additional land at the group level. In joint work with Stephan Dietrich, we investigate the impact of agricultural insurance on small-scale farmers finding that after a period of severe shocks, producers with access to the insurance program were less likely to acquire informal loans, were less likely to use loans to repay debts and had access to loans with lower interest rates and longer maturation periods. This paper is under review at World Development.

Furthermore, I conducted projects on behavioral development economics that are related with the effect of diversity in working environments on organizational performance (Ibanez and Schaffland, 2013); the changing status of the elder in Africa due to urbanization processes (Asiedu and Ibanez, 2015) and the evolution of social cohesion as result of negative shocks (Dietrich, Ibanez and Klasen, 2013).