Dr Simon Franklin

Dr Simon Franklin

Post-doctoral Research Economist

Department of Economics

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Key Expertise

About me

Job Market Placement
Assistant Professor, Queen Mary, University of London

Research interests
Development (primary)
Urban, Labour (secondary)

Job market paper
The demand for government housing:  Evidence from lotteries for 200,000 homes in Ethiopia

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Can the state improve the lives of slum dwellers by building formal housing otherwise not provided by the market? Or will state-built housing inevitably be beyond the willingness to pay of poor households or built in the wrong location? To answer these questions, I study a lottery for large-scale government housing in Ethiopia. Winners of the lottery have access to formal housing that they own, but they pay a large implicit cost of forgone rental income if they move in. I find that nearly half of lottery winners trade slum housing in the city centre for improved housing on the outskirts of cities. They choose to consume housing quality beyond the basic level provided by the state by investing in amenities that they did not enjoy in slum housing. I argue that this reveals unmet demand for improved housing and suggests that informal housing is a sub-optimal outcome for a large proportion of households in this setting. Moving to sites far from the city centre does not negatively affect labour supply or earnings. Although social lives are less vibrant in the new housing estates, lottery winners report significant reductions in conflict with neighbours and increased willingness to contribute to public goods.

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Publications and additional papers


Location, Search Costs and Youth Unemployment: Experimental Evidence from Transport Subsidies. (2018).
Economic Journal 128 (614), 2353-2379.
Download here

Economic Shocks and Labour Market Flexibility (with Julien Labonne).
Forthcoming, Journal of Human Resources.
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Enabled to work: The impact of government housing on slum dwellers in South Africa.
Revise and Resubmit, Journal of Urban Economics.
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Anonymity or Distance? Job Search and Labour Market Exclusion in a Growing African City (with Girum Abebe, Stefano Caria, Marcel Fafchamps, Paolo Falco, and Simon Quinn)
Revise and Resubmit, Review of Economic Studies.
Download here


Job Fairs: Matching Firms and Workers in a Field Experiment in Ethiopia. (with Marcel Fafchamps, Girum Abebe, Simon Quinn, Stefano Caria, Forhad Shilpi, and Paolo Falco)
Submitted. CSAE Working Paper WPS/2017-06.
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Searching with Friends. (with Stefano Caria and Marc Witte)
Submitted. CSAE Working Paper WPS/2018-14.
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Good neighbours make good fences: randomly allocated neighbours and local public goods in urban Ethiopia.
(Companion to job market paper) Draft available.

How does the composition of residents in urban neighbourhoods affect the provision of local public goods? I study a lottery for state-built housing in Ethiopia that randomly assigns groups of households to apartment blocks in newly built neighbourhoods. I collect data on the universe of randomly assigned households in 250 housing blocks at the time that they move in. I combine this with detailed data on the quality of local public goods at the time of moving in and two years later, from a specifically designed neighbourhood survey and household self-reports. I find clear evidence that the composition of neighbours affects local public good provision, in terms of building maintenance and beautification of public spaces, as well as self-reported community cohesion and willingness to contribute to public goods. Specifically, buildings with higher poverty rates and with lower rates of owner-occupation have significantly worse maintenance and community space improvements. By contrast, I find no evidence that ethnic diversity affects community and public goods outcomes.

Private costs and social benefits of workfare: Evidence from urban Ethiopia (with Girum Abebe and Carolina Mejia-Mantilla)
Analysis complete. Draft available soon.

Developing countries are investing in social safety net schemes. Public works are a commonly used alternative to unconditional cash transfers.  But work requirements may significantly reduce welfare gains by limiting beneficiaries’ ability to earn income from non-public labour, particularly in urban areas where labour markets exhibit little seasonality. We study a large-scale urban public works program for poor households in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We worked with the state to randomize the program at the level of the urban district, and collect data on a panel of over 6,000 households. We find that the programme significantly reduces beneficiary households’ private labour supply, which reduces the total income transfer of the program by nearly 40%. We find evidence consistent with a small income effect and a large time-cost effect. Most of the reductions in private work come from household members who actively participated in the public works. We compare a regular phone survey to study a change in the public work requirement from 2 to 6 hours per day, half-way through the first year of the program. An increase in public work hours at the intensive margin, with no accompanying change in pay, leads to significantly larger reductions in private earnings. We find evidence that improved public goods may offset these costs: non-participants living in treated areas report dramatic improvements in neighbourhood cleanliness, greening and sanitation, one year after the program began.

The long-term impacts of industrial and entrepreneurial work: Experimental Evidence from Ethiopia (with Chris Blattman and Stefan Dercon)
Draft available soon.

Can one-time interventions that aimed at overcoming barriers to entrepreneurship and wage employment place young people on better long-term career trajectories? We study the effects of a cash grant of $300 plus business training intended to relieve capital constraints, and a one-time factory job offer designed to help low-skilled women with no work experience get their first opportunity in wage employment. We randomly assign young, mostly female, job applicants in Ethiopia to either one of these two interventions, or a control group. After one year, those who were given the grant were more likely to be self-employed, and those who were given the factory job were more likely to be working in factory employment. These effects have dissipated after five years: we find complete convergence in income, consumption, occupational choice, and hours of work between both grant and factory-job recipients and the control group. We find that the control group increases participation in both self-employment and non-factory work over time. Recipients of the grant are not significantly more likely to be engaged in self-employment, nor more successful in the enterprises that they run. Individuals assigned to the factory job offer quit or lose these jobs relatively quickly, and are no more likely to find employment elsewhere.


Urban density and labour markets: Evaluating slum redevelopment in Addis Ababa. (with Girum Abebe and Gharad Bryan)
Fieldwork underway.

Cost effective panel data collection for Kampala? (with Julia Bird, Gharad Bryan, and Astrid Haas)
Fieldwork underway.

Can infrastructure upgrades and new technologies improve road safety? Evidence from Ethiopia's Transport Systems Improvement Project? (with Girija Borker, Erin Kelley, and Javier Morales Sarriera)
Fieldwork underway.


Placement Officer
Professor Mark Schankerman 

Professor Marcel Fafchamps

Professor Marcel Fafchamps
Professor Vernon Henderson 
Professor Robin Burgess
Dr Gharad Bryan
Dr Simon Quinn

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Office Address
Department of Economics, 
London School of Economics and Political Science, 
Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE