Monday, March 7, 2016

AAEA Trust Profile: Sylvan Herskowitz

Sylvan Herskowitz
University of California - Berkeley
You won the 2015 Luther G. Tweeten Student Scholarship for your research proposal: The Causes and Consequences of Sports Betting in Uganda, East Africa, what prompted you to pursue this topic and how is your research progressing?

I first became interested in sports betting while working in Monrovia, Liberia. It was impossible to walk more than a block without seeing groups of young men discussing and debating different European football matches and placing bets with international betting companies. It was immediately clear that both the pervasiveness and intensity of sports betting throughout Liberia were huge. Sports betting occupies a large portion of these men’s weekly expenditures and I was interested to develop a better understanding of the underlying reasons for such heavy participation as well as the impact betting has on their lives. There is a very similar form of sports betting in Uganda (as well as many other countries throughout the world). Following the outbreak of Ebola and before its resolution was known, I decided to explore the possibility of conducting a study on sports betting in Kampala, Uganda. The AAEA scholarship helped me to conduct an initial pilot in Kampala and, in turn, to secure additional funding for a larger version of the project.

What led you to pursue food and agricultural economics?
I chose a degree in agricultural and resource economics in order to improve my analytical and data analysis skills. I’ve been motivated to work on topics related to international development where there is an increasing demand for rigorous methodology and policy analysis.

What advice would you offer aspiring agricultural/applied economists?
Until I’ve managed to graduate from my PhD program I’m not sure that I’m the most qualified person to offer advice to aspiring economists. I’ll just offer that there are many interesting and challenging questions that need answers. Anything that is systematically important in peoples’ lives will have an economic lens through which the main issues can be framed and (hopefully) analyzed.

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