Speaker bio: Macartan Humphreys

The Centre of Excellence for Development Impact and Learning (CEDIL) 2023 conference:  
Innovations in Impact Evaluation: What Have We Learned?

Tuesday 21 – Friday 24 February

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Join the conversation: #CEDIL23

Speaker biography: Macartan Humphreys

Macartan Humphreys


I am a Professor of Political Science at Columbia University, honorary professor at Humboldt University Berlin, and director of the Institutions and Political Inequality group at the WZB Berlin. I work on the political economy of development. Ongoing research focuses on post-conflict development, ethnic politics, political authority and leadership, and democratic development with a current focus on the use of field experiments to study democratic decision-making in post-conflict and developing areas. I have worked in Chad, Ghana, Haiti, Indonesia, Liberia, Mali, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Uganda, and elsewhere. Recent work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Development Economics, Science Advances, and elsewhere. I have written or coauthored books on ethnic politics, natural resource management, and game theory and politics. I am a former Trudeau fellow and scholar of the Harvard Academy.

My biggest methodological interest right now is understanding when and how knowledge cumulates. This touches on questions about when individual findings are to be believed or not and when and how one can start making broader inferences from individual cases to understand populations and broader processes. I see this as about the biggest challenge facing social scientists. A lot of our current approaches to inference do not address these questions well, but understanding cumulation seems critical if our work is to have any broader impact. My work with Alan Jacobs goes in this direction as does the metaketa work with Thad Dunning and others at egap. See projects on cumulation here

My biggest substantive interest has been in understanding patterns of political inequality. Under what conditions can marginalized populations get their voices heard in local or national politics? To what extent is political inequality driven by institutional features or more fundamental economic structures? My work on governance in Liberia and Congo examines these questions as does my work on political communication in Uganda. My work on discrimination against minorities and women focuses on interventions by states that seek to address different types of inequalities.