Emily Oster, a University of Chicago economist, uses the dismal science to rethink conventional wisdom, from her Harvard doctoral thesis that took on famed economist Amartya Sen to her recent work debunking assumptions on HIV prevalence in Africa.
Emily Oster re-examines the stats on AIDS in Africa from an economic perspective and reaches a stunning conclusion: Everything we know about the spread of HIV on the continent is wrong.
She brought up an opinion that more exports means more AIDS and that effect is really big, by testing new data and information about prevalence over time. The data that Emily Oster offers suggests that if you double export volume, it will lead to a quadrupling of the new HIV infection. And this has important implications both for forecasting and for policy. From a forecasting perspective, if we know where trade is likely to change, we can actually think about which areas are likely to be heavily infected with HIV and we can go and try to deploy pre-emptive preventive measures there. Likewise, as we are developing policies to try to encourage exports, if we know there is this externality, we can think about what the right kinds of policies are.
But it also tells us that even though poverty is linked to AIDS in the sense that Africa is poor and they have a lot of AIDS, it is not necessarily the case that impoving poverty in the very short run is going to lead a decline in HIV prevalence.
And she also questioned the HIV prevention case in Uganda, the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa with successful prevention. It is true that there was a decline in prevalence in Uganda in 1990s and they had an education campaign for it. But there was actually something else that happened in Uganda in that period. Their exports went down a lot in the early 1990s and actually that decline lines up really closely to HIV infections at that time, according to Emily Oster.
– Caiqing Jin (Kelly)