Office of the Chief Economist of the Sustainable Development Practice, The World Bank
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Economics of Development, Environment, Water economics
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Last updated May 3, 2023
Jason Russ is a Senior Economist in the Office of the Chief Economist of the Sustainable Development Practice at the World Bank. His professional interests center on using econometrics and data analytics to diagnose development challenges, and quantify the economic and social impacts of environmental externalities. His tenure at the World Bank includes five years in the Water Global Practice where he helped to develop and coordinate the analytical work program of the Economics Global Solutions Group, including authoring many of its global flagship reports. He has authored numerous publications in academic journals largely related to environmental and development economics. Prior to joining the World Bank he was an analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from George Washington University.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 8 of 8
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank; and Agence Française de Développement, 2015-10) Ali, Rubaba ; Barra, A. Federico ; Berg, Claudia ; Damania, Richard ; Nash, John ; Russ, JasonRoads are the arteries through which the world’s economies pulse. Roads connect sellers to markets, workers to jobs, students to education, and the sick to hospitals. Yet in much of the developing world—and particularly in Africa—adequate roads are lacking. Accordingly, investment in transportation remains a key strategy for development agencies. Roughly $6.8 billion per year is spent in Sub-Saharan Africa on paving roads, and the World Bank invests more on roads than on education, health, and social services combined. Despite the large sums spent on transportation, there have been no assessments to determine whether these significant investments help or hinder outcomes, and the methodologies for evaluating which road projects to fund or not to fund have been disjointed and unreliable. Highways to Success or Byways to Waste: Estimating the Economic Benefits of Roads in Africa hopes to establish a new methodology for prioritizing funding that can be applied to diverse scenarios, regions, and projects. This book demonstrates how modern econometrics and geospatial techniques can be combined to analyze the latest available geo-referenced datasets at the smallest possible scale to answer some of the most important questions in development. Aimed at researchers from across the spectrum of international development, this book seeks to be a reference guide for all who seek new tools and insights into the many issues, both technical and nontechnical, of this important field.
Infrastructure in Conflict-Prone and Fragile Environments: Evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-05) Ali, Rubaba ; Barra, A. Federico ; Berg, Claudia N. ; Damania, Richard ; Nash, John D. ; Russ, Jason ; Russ, JasonIn conflict-prone situations, access to markets is necessary to restore economic growth and generate the preconditions for peace and reconstruction. Hence, the rehabilitation of damaged transport infrastructure has emerged as an overarching investment priority among donors and governments. This paper brings together two distinct strands of literature on the effects of conflict on welfare and on the economic impact of transport infrastructure. The theoretical model explores how transport infrastructure affects conflict incidence and welfare when selection into rebel groups is endogenous. The implications of the model are tested with data from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The analysis addresses the problems of the endogeneity of transport costs and conflict using a novel set of instrumental variables. For transport costs, a new instrument is developed, the natural-historical path, which measures the most efficient travel route to a market, taking into account topography, land cover, and historical caravan routes. Recognizing the imprecision in measuring the geographic impacts of conflict, the analysis develops a spatial kernel density function to proxy for the incidence of conflict. To account for its endogeneity, it is instrumented with ethnic fractionalization and distance to the eastern border. A variety of indicators of well-being are used: a wealth index, a poverty index, and local gross domestic product. The results suggest that, in most situations, reducing transport costs has the expected beneficial impacts on all the measures of welfare. However, when there is intense conflict, improvements in infrastructure may not have the anticipated benefits. The results suggest the need for more nuanced strategies that take into account varying circumstances and consider actions that jointly target governance with construction activities.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-05) Ali, Rubaba ; Barra, Alvaro Federico ; Berg, Claudia N. ; Damania, Richard ; Nash, John ; Russ, JasonTransport infrastructure is deemed to be central to development and consumes a large fraction of the development assistance envelope. Yet there is debate about the economic impact of road projects. This paper proposes an approach to assess the differential development impacts of alternative road construction and prioritize various proposals, using Nigeria as a case study. Recognizing that there is no perfect measure of economic well-being, a variety of outcome metrics are used, including crop revenue, livestock revenue, non-agricultural income, the probability of being multi-dimensionally poor, and local gross domestic product for Nigeria. Although the measure of transport is the most accurate possible, it is still endogenous because of the nonrandom placement of road infrastructure. This endogeneity is addressed using a seemingly novel instrumental variable termed the natural path: the time it would take to walk along the most logical route connecting two points without taking into account other, bias-causing economic benefits. Further, the analysis considers the potential endogeneity from nonrandom placement of households and markets through carefully chosen control variables. It finds that reducing transportation costs in Nigeria will increase crop revenue, non-agricultural income, the wealth index, and local gross domestic product. Livestock sales increase as well, although this finding is less robust. The probability of being multi-dimensionally poor will decrease. The results also cast light on income diversification and structural changes that may arise. These findings are robust to relaxing the exclusion restriction. The paper also demonstrates how to prioritize alternative road programs by comparing the expected development impacts of alternative New Partnership for Africas Development projects.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-05) Ali, Rubaba ; Barra, A. Federico ; Berg, Claudia N. ; Damania, Richard ; Nash, John D. ; Russ, JasonThis paper addresses an old and recurring theme in development economics: the slow adoption of new technologies by farmers in many developing countries. The paper explores a somewhat novel link to explain this puzzle -- the link between market access and the incentives to adopt a new technology when there are non-convexities. The paper develops a theoretical model to guide the empirical analysis, which uses spatially disaggregated agricultural production data from Spatial Production Allocation Model and Living Standards Measurement Study survey data for Nigeria. The model is used to estimate the impact of transport costs on crop production, the adoption of modern technologies, and the differential impact on returns of modern versus traditional farmers. To overcome the limitation of data availability on travel costs for much of Africa, road survey data are combined with geographic information road network data to generate the most thorough and accurate road network available. With these data and the Highway Development Management Model, minimum travel costs from each location to the market are computed. Consistent with the theory, analysis finds that transportation costs are critical in determining technology choices, with a greater responsiveness among farmers who adopt modern technologies, and at times a perverse (negative) response to lower transport costs among those who employ more traditional techniques. In sum, the paper presents compelling evidence that the constraints to the adoption of modern technologies and access to markets are interconnected, and so should be targeted jointly.
Economic Boom or Ecologic Doom?: Using Spatial Analysis to Reconcile Road Development with Forest Conservation(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2016-05-20) Barra, Alvaro Federico ; Burnouf, Mathilde ; Damania, Richard ; Russ, JasonThe natural endowment of the Democrat Republic of Congo, in the form of land, minerals, and forests, is unparalleled. The right mix of policies has the potential to unleash incentives that could transform the economy. However, transport infrastructure in the DRC is amongst the sparsest and most dilapidated in the world, and this lack of infrastructure is likely a significant constraint to growth. This work considerably advances the information that is available to infrastructure planners, and provides methodologies that could be used to make more informed decisions to identify trade-offs between economic growth and environmental endangerment. The approach draws from the state-of the art across a variety of disciplines – spatial (GIS) analysis, spatial econometrics, economic theory, and conservation biology – to create an approach that can guide the location and level of investments by estimating benefits and environmental costs at a highly disaggregated spatial scale. The analysis proceeds in four related phases that combine economic assessments with geospatial analysis. First transport costs are estimated using GIS techniques. A variety of econometric procedures are then used to determine the economic effects of changing transport costs. Second, highly disaggregated spatial data is used to estimate the effects of roads on forest cover, and the resulting biodiversity that would be at risk from local deforestation. Next the two spatial estimates are combined to simulate the effects of different policies. Finally this provides a series of maps that identify regions where there are large trade-offs between economic and ecological goals. Overall the results suggests that the siting of infrastructure needs to consider impacts at the very outset of the planning process. This report presents both new data and new techniques that can be used to identify areas of opportunity, risk, and potential for REDD+ financing. Such upstream planning has been rendered both feasible and cost effective with the availability of geo-referenced information on forest cover and economic data. This report provides the data and easily comprehensible maps for such an exercise.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-12-10) Zaveri, Esha ; Russ, Jason ; Desbureaux, Sebastien ; Damania, Richard ; Rodella, Aude-Sophie ; Ribeiro, GiovannaThe fallout of nitrogen pollution is considered one of the largest global externalities facing the world, impacting air, water soil and human health. This paper presents new evidence that nitrogen pollution in water is an important determinant of variations in human capital. Data from the Demographic and Health Survey dataset across India, Vietnam, and 33 African countries are combined to analyze the causal links between pollution exposure experienced during the very earliest stages of life and later-life health. Results show that pollution exposure experienced in the critical years of development from the period of birth up until year three – is associated with decreased height as an adult, a well-known indicator of overall health and productivity, and is robust to several statistical checks. Because adult height is related to education, labor productivity, and income, this also implies a loss of earning potential. Results are consistent and show that early-life exposure to nitrogen pollution in water can lower height-for-age scores during childhood in Vietnam and during infancy in Africa. These findings add to the evidence on the enduring consequences of water pollution and identify a critical area for policy intervention.
Publication(Taylor and Francis, 2018) Russ, Jason ; Berg, Claudia ; Damania, Richard ; Barra, A. Federico ; Ali, Rubaba ; Nash, JohnTransport infrastructure consumes a large fraction of the development assistance envelope. Yet procedures for evaluating transport infrastructure projects are typically ad hoc. This paper proposes an approach to assess the differential impacts of alternative investment proposals in data constrained environments where conducting reliable impact analyses is difficult. We first demonstrate a technique for estimating the cost of transporting products to markets. We then estimate the impact of improving the road network on economic activity. Finally, we perform simulations to demonstrate a methodology for prioritizing alternative investments. The analysis demonstrates a pragmatic, though rigorous, approach for assessing transport infrastructure benefits.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-02) Zaveri, Esha ; Russ, Jason ; Desbureaux, Sebastien ; Damania, Richard ; Rodella, Aude-Sophie ; Ribeiro, GiovannaThe fallout of nitrogen pollution is considered one of the largest global externalities facing the world, impacting air, water, soil, and human health. This paper combines data from the Demographic and Health Survey data set across India, Vietnam, and 33 African countries to analyze the causal links between pollution exposure experienced during the very earliest stages of life and later-life health. The results show that pollution exposure experienced in the critical years of development—from birth until age three—is associated with decreased height as an adult, a well-known indicator of overall health and productivity, and is robust to several statistical checks. Because adult height is related to education, labor productivity, and income, this also implies a loss of earning potential. The analysis begins within an assessment in India, where the data are more available, and is then extended to geographic settings including Vietnam and 33 countries in Africa. The results are consistent and show that early-life exposure to nitrogen pollution in water can lower height-for-age scores during childhood in Vietnam and during infancy in Africa. These findings add to the evidence on the enduring consequences of water pollution and identify a critical area for policy intervention.