“Estimating the Effect of Land Tenure Formalization in Benin Using Satellite Imagery,” Luke Sanford, Yale

Event time: 
Thursday, April 28, 2022 - 12:00pm through 1:15pm
Rosenkranz Hall (RKZ ), 005
115 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Luke Sanford, Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy and Governance, Yale School of the Environment
Event description: 


Abstract: In this paper I estimate the effects of a land tenure formalization program in Benin on developmental and environmental outcomes using satellite imagery. I develop a new impact evaluation approach, combining machine learning methods for remote sensing data with a double machine learning approach to inference. I validate this method by showing that I can achieve balance on propensity scores of treated and control villages even when the control village locations are not used. I show that my approach can generate more precise estimates at the village level, then demonstrate that it can be used to estimate the effects at the (non-randomized) plot level. This allows me to estimate outcomes which are directly of interest to policymakers. Specifically, I find evidence of a net decrease in forest cover and increase in annual cropland in the northern, most land-insecure areas of Benin and no effects on built area or tree crops anywhere. Finally, I show how this method can be adapted to improve our estimates the effects of many spatially targeted policies while accounting for a host of potential confounding variables common in coupled human-natural systems.

Luke Sanford is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy and Governance at Yale School of the Environment. He graduated in 2021 with a PhD in Political Science and International Affairs from the Political Science department and the School of Global Policy and Strategy. His work focuses on environmental policymaking – especially how political institutions mediate the relationship between the environmental preferences of constituents and the incentives and actions of policymakers. He also studies the distributional consequences over space and time of decisions about natural resources, and how those play in to policymaking. He develops methods for using new sources of digital data, including text and satellite images, to measure individual and group preferences, and to observe outcomes on the ground. He uses those to help understand preferences for different policies, and what the effects of those policies are.

This workshop is open to the Yale community and will be held in a hybrid format. Current Yale faculty, students, and staff are encouraged to attend in person. Participants will also be able to attend remotely on Zoom. To receive announcements and invitations to attend either in person or remotely, please subscribe at https://csap.yale.edu/quantitative-research-methods-workshop.

The series is sponsored by the ISPS Center for the Study of American Politics and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale with support from the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund.