Martina Jakob
I am a PhD candidate at the University of Bern, specializing in development economics and public economics. My research combines randomized controlled trials with big data and machine or deep learning methods to study topics such as education, institutions, and inequality. Through my work, I want to contribute to effective policy-making to improve living conditions in low- and middle-income countries.

I am also the founder and president of Consciente, a non-profit organization working for quality education in El Salvador. Consciente pursues an evidence-based approach and presently employs over 50 staff members in El Salvador.
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Job Market Paper

Top Down or Bottom Up? A Field Experiment on Public Goods Provision and Solid Waste Management
Joint with Carla Coccia.

Participatory bottom-up initiatives have become a popular alternative to the traditional top-down provision of local public goods. This study compares the effectiveness of these two approaches. Based on a randomized controlled trial with 120 communities in rural El Salvador, we assess the impact of two interventions addressing solid waste contamination: (i) a top-down intervention where streets were cleaned by an external actor, and (ii) a bottom-up intervention where a facilitator raised awareness and mobilized for collective action. Using an objective measure of pollution based on geotagged photos and deep learning, we find large immediate effects for both interventions, with reductions in waste by 39 percent for the top-down intervention and 28 percent for the bottom-up intervention. Four months after the end of the project, these effects depreciated by 80 percent for the top-down and 60 percent for the bottom-up treatment. Our complementary data from 2,421 surveys and 883 activity records is consistent with a theoretical framework where many individuals are willing to contribute to public goods when others do, but fail to coordinate in the absence of a committed leader.


Working Papers

Work in Progress

Improving the Quality of Education in Developing Countries: An Experimental Evaluation of Three Teacher Training Programs.
Joint with Carla Coccia, Konstantin Büchel, Ben Jann, and Aymo Brunetti.
Guiding the Way: A Field Experiment on Mentoring and School Dropout in Guatemala.
Joint with Mauricio Romero, Eric Edmonds, and Carla Coccia


I have designed and taught courses on global development, experimental methods, programming and deep learning at BA, MA, and CAS level at the University of Bern. On my GitHub repository a complete introductory Python course I developed for social science students is available (suitable for teaching or self-study). The course is based on interactive Jupyter notebooks and includes tutorials and exercises on the Python syntax, data wrangling, analysis and visualization, web scraping, and text analysis. Please contact me for solutions.
Machine Learning and Artificial Neural Networks
with S. Bahr
BA & MA seminar
Fall 2023
Web Scraping and APIs
with S. Heinrich
CAS lecture
Fall 2023, Fall 2021
Programming II: Python
with R. Farys
BA lecture
Spring 2023
Big Data for Development
with B. Jann
BA & MA seminar
Spring 2021
Introduction to Development Sociology
with C. Kühnhanss
BA seminar
Fall 2020, Fall 2019
Topics in Development Sociology
with C. Kühnhanss
BA & MA seminar
Spring 2020
Impact Evaluations
with C. Kühnhanss & B. Jann
MA seminar
Spring 2019