Spotlight on EGC Affiliates: Ceren Baysan


Develop a passion for field research

Baysan was born in Virginia, a year after her parents emigrated from Turkey to the United States. Her family also lived for a time in Bangladesh, where they learned about Grameen Bank and microcredit – the system of giving small loans to poor people to start and set up businesses with the aim of helping them escape poverty. . After completing his undergraduate studies at McGill University in Montreal, Baysan worked for the Center for Microfinance in India (CMF), a training venue to start his career. She developed a passion for fieldwork by seeking access to finance among low-income farmers.

During this time, she also learned first-hand the importance of political economy issues raised by Indian academics like Pande, Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen. When CMF placed her on a project in Thanjavur, she also had the opportunity to connect directly with Pande, who has become a longtime mentor and is currently Director of EGC.

When people already live in a society divided by high levels of censorship, the reduction in censorship can backfire and increase divisions along ideological lines. – Ceren Baysan

During Baysan’s second year of PhD, there were major protests in Turkey that sparked reflections on political economy topics that she wanted to explore both academically at Berkeley and in the field. This interest, combined with her passion for fieldwork and the impact of previous political upheavals on her parents, led her to spend two years in Turkey, which allowed her to gain a range of valuable perspectives. . “Much of my time has been spent learning from journalists, activists, voters and politicians of all ideological backgrounds,” she described.

A focus on censorship and attribution

Today, Baysan’s interest in political economy is central to his work. She said the ability of voters to hold politicians and the state to account is crucial, given the level of inequality in society and the importance of the state in determining resource allocation. Voters’ perceptions and beliefs about state performance and country issues can be negatively affected by state censorship or false narratives that place the blame on ‘outgroups’, such as foreign powers. or immigrants.

According to Freedom House, over 80% of the world’s population cannot easily consume uncensored media. “As you can imagine,” Baysan said, “it becomes a real dilemma against the backdrop of pressing issues like climate change, recessions and epidemics, regardless of the technology and knowledge that humanity has developed. “. This dilemma is reflected in the growing political polarization around the world, where ideologically divided voters disagree over high-stakes policies.

Protesters at a referendum rally in Istanbul, April 8, 2017. Photo by 4.murat, Shutterstock.

Baysan explored the impact of censorship reduction on voter behavior in the article “Persistent Polarizing Effects of Persuasive Communication: Experimental Evidence from Turkey”. She analyzed the impact of a random door-to-door information campaign in the context of a referendum proposing policy changes to lift the limits of presidential powers following the 2016 coup. In a randomly selected group of neighborhoods, volunteers from the main opposition party gave voters of different ideological stances information about the poor economic performance and the increase in terrorist activity under the administration. In another group of randomly selected neighborhoods, voters received information about proposed policy changes to ease constraints on the executive. Far from attracting some voters only in the opposition, the campaign led to increased political polarization in both directions, and this persisted for at least two years.

Describing the document, Baysan said: “Access to diverse information is considered essential for political accountability and the proper functioning of democracy. However, this article shows that when people already live in a society divided by high levels of censorship, the reduction in censorship can backfire and increase divisions along ideological lines.

She said that in Turkey threats from foreign powers have long been part of public discourse. As a result, voters disagree on whether statebuilding is good policy, depending on whether they think the country’s problems can be attributed to the state or to external threats. . In future work, Baysan seeks to understand the implications of voter heterogeneity and targeted persuasion for competition between political parties.

“Ceren’s work is very original for several reasons,” said Edward Miguel, professor of economics at UC Berkeley and director of the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA). “On the one hand, it was courageous to conduct this kind of research in an increasingly authoritarian state. In addition, it combined elements that are not often seen in a single corpus: qualitative research conducted with high-ranking politicians, a randomized study based on the theory of controlled trial between citizens, as well as his own in-depth knowledge of the political context of the country. “

Review of forced migration

In a new body of work, Baysan explores social and economic integration in the context of forced mass migration. In an article recently published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Baysan and his co-authors conducted a study in Turkish elementary schools where large numbers of Syrian refugee children have been enrolled in recent years. They evaluated an educational program designed to strengthen social cohesion in these schools by teaching children about perspective taking, and found that the program had been successful in reducing peer violence and social exclusion.

Ceren Baysan on the steps of the New Haven Economic Growth Center“Cultivating socio-emotional skills in public schools is an institutional policy aimed at strengthening social cohesion,” explained Baysan, “we find that the program has also increased trust, reciprocity and altruism. These skills together form social capital, which is vital for long-term economic development through its impact on effective communication and effective economic interactions, among other channels.

Currently, Baysan is working on a project that explores the integration of businesses owned by Syrian refugees in Turkey. She explained that since these immigrants face barriers to work legally in Turkey, owning businesses is a sustainable and stimulating way to earn a living. Rigorous analysis of refugee-owned and Turkish-owned businesses can also identify potential policies that change perceptions between groups and improve inter-group relations, highlight complementarities between refugees and the host population, and strengthen social cohesion. This social cohesion, in turn, has the potential to actively thwart fear-based identity politics, Baysan said.

Baysan said she has enjoyed and benefited from working on these topics at Yale, where there is a lot of overlapping work. In addition, her work on the Symposium exposed her to the work of Professor Gerald Jaynes and broadened her understanding of the foundations of development economics. “Yale is an incredibly stimulating environment for this type of work, my hope is to generate new ideas and learn from EGC professors and students on issues that interest me,” she said.


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