Background & Expertise
Dr. Olga Shemyakina is our very own expert on how large-scale negative market interruptions, such as armed conflict and natural disasters, impact individual choices /decisions on whether it is possible to continue with one’s education, get necessary healthcare, or maybe it is time to move or migrate to a safer place. Until Shemyakina’s work, most research focused on country-level data, i.e. we could not make accurate inferences of the degree of impact of such negative shocks on individual behavior.
Needless to mention that individual-level analyses provide a much more robust framework for relevant and meaningful policy prescriptions. As a result of her research, Shemyakina has been invited to consult for the World Bank on how conflict impacts education and labor markets, in general.
Below is the selected list of questions and answers that Shemyakina tackled in her interview with the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine:
Q: You found that there is a definite connection between a shock, a person’s education or health and how that person will fare over time.
Yes. Education and health are human capital that you accumulate over a lifetime. Usually, the bulk of this accumulation happens when a person is very young. Unexpected changes to one’s environment during early childhood may affect their education and health. Poor nutrition and exposure to disease in early childhood has been shown to affect one’s health later in life (depression, obesity) and their earnings.
Q: Is there a difference between the impact of a natural disaster versus that of a war or violent conflict?
They are different. When you have a natural disaster, the government typically engages to help the affected. People work together. If you have a war, there are so many fighting sides that emerge, people lose trust in each other. Once the war ends, it’s hard to regain trust.
Q: Do your findings impact policy?
I would say the biggest challenge is now that we know that conflict has a strong, negative impact on education and health, how do we implement changes that cushion the impact of the shocks? We know that countries with strong health and educational systems are more resilient, and we should focus on building these systems. We also know that children whose parents have more education are typically better off. In particular, education of mothers has a big, positive impact on children’s wellbeing.
Q: What do you hope the contributions of your research will be?
I hope that my research will help countries develop better policies to recognize and address shortfalls in education and health, and gender imbalances created by armed conflict.