With an academic background in both philosophy and mathematics, I have graduated from Columbia University with a PhD in political science. For the past several years, I have studied the political economy of humanitarian intervention, with a regional focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. My research has focused on the targeting of development and humanitarian aid at the community-level in conflict and post-conflict settings. 

In substance, I am interested in the ways in which aid distributions affect economic, social and political relationships between those who receive assistance and those who do not within a given community. I want to understand the conditions under which foreign aid distributed at the local level - typically in the form of food, cash or non-food items - will be most successful. I use my research to develop practical tools for NGO workers in the field as well as foreign policy frameworks.


I like studying one topic through multiple lenses, so I tend to mix up insights from various fields such as economics, social psychology, statistics, computer science, anthropology, sociology, mathematics, and philosophy. I also use a large variety of methods for my research including game theory, attitudinal and behavioral surveys, quantitative large-N analysis, randomized control trials, qualitative interviews, data mining, natural language analysis, participant observation, GIS spatial analysis and comparative case studies.

My most recent papers have focused on non-beneficiaries in fostering or hindering the process of aid delivery in conflict and post-conflict settings. In particular, I have looked the role of non-poor, non-elite groups in communities receiving foreign assistance with a lab-in-the-field experiment. I have developed a formal model of the dynamics of aid targeting, in which I show that rivalry between powerful groups can sometimes benefit powerless, vulnerable groups. Using behavioral economics, I have also looked at the causal effects of targeting instructions, peer-pressure and monitoring on resource allocation in rural villages in Democratic Republic of the Congo. With disaggregated spatial and temporal data, I have compared conflict dynamics and population movements patterns in Sudan and South Sudan from 2005 to 2015 to understand the challenges of food aid distributions. I have collected existing evaluation reports and literature to create the largest existing database of humanitarian interventions and their outcomes, and I have looked at moral hazard in the reporting of unfavorable outcomes by aid organizations. Finally, I have also analyzed the results of a post-conflict World Bank cash transfer program in the Aceh region of Indonesia using a regression discontinuity design to show that the effects of bigger aid windfalls in recipient villages depend on historical relationships between civilians and ex-combatants.


Over the years, I have enjoyed teaching various subjects, including economics, comparative politics, moral and political philosophy, mathematics, statistics, and game theory. I have worked and lived in the Great Lakes and the Sahel Region of Africa as well as in Haiti. I speak Arabic and Swahili pretty decently. And whenever I am not coding, I am usually outdoors either rock climbing or paragliding.

For more, see my research or CV.

Photo by Imane Cherif.