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Sara Lowes

Welcome Assistant Professor, Sara Lowes

Sara Lowes joined the department of Economics at UC San Diego in July 2020. She received her PhD in Political Economy & Government from Harvard University in 2017. Prior to joining UCSD, Sara was an Assistant Professor of Economics at Bocconi University and last year a Postdoctoral Fellow at the King Center on Global Development at Stanford University. She is a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar

Her main focus of research is Development Economics. Her primary research interests are at the intersection of development economics, economic history, and political economy. She examines how culture and institutions shape development outcomes. Much of her work focuses on sub-Saharan Africa. For example her paper “The Evolution of Culture and Institutions: Evidence from the Kuba Kingdom” (with Nunn, N, Robinson, J.A and  Weigel, J) shows the use of variation in historical state centralization to examine the long-term impact of institutions on cultural norms. The Kuba Kingdom, established in Central Africa in the early 17th century by King Shyaam, had more developed state institutions than the other independent villages and chieftaincies in the region. Comparing individuals from the Kuba Kingdom  to those from just outside the Kingdom, the authors find that centralized formal institutions are associated with weaker norms of rule-following and a greater propensity to cheat for material gain. This finding is consistent with recent models where endogenous investments to inculcate values in children decline when there is an increase in the effectiveness of formal institutions that enforce socially desirable behavior.

She has three other papers related to her work in Africa, researching the connection between modern outcomes and institutional history.