Jean-Francois Maystadt

Teacher Writing a Formula on a Blackboard

Jean-Francois Maystadt

Research Associate Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique - FNRS

Professor at Economic School of Louvain, UCLouvain and Lancaster University

Development Economics, Environmental Economics, Economic Geography, Political Economy

I am a development economist specialized in the study of Conflicts, Climate Change  and Migration. My current research is related to the causes and consequences of conflicts and forced migration mainly in developing countries. 

I obtained a PhD in Economics from the Universite catholique de Louvain (UCL, Belgium) under the supervision of Jacques Thisse in 2010. During my PhD, I was a research fellow at the Center for Operational Research and Econometrics (CORE). I then held research positions at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, Washington DC, 2010-2014) and Center for Institutions and Economic Performance (LICOS, 2012-2014) at KU Leuven and the Institute of Development Policy (IOB) at the University of Antwerp (2018-2020). I hold a fractional appointment at Lancaster University where I was working full time between August 2014 and August 2018.

NEW: A recent radio discussion of my work on refugees with "Les eclaireurs" on "La Premiere" (Belgian radio, in French): via Auvio podcast with description



Google scholar (8/01/2020): 1438 citations; H-index: 16

Institutional mistrust and child vaccination coverage in Africa

2021: Stoop, Hirvonen and Maystadt. BMJ Global Health, Vol. 6, no.4, p. 1-9

A gravity analysis of refuge mobility using mobile phone data

2021: Beine, Bertinelli, Comertpay, Litina, and Maystadt, Journal of Development Economics 150: 102618.

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Directions for Research on Climate and Conflict

2020: Mach, Adger, Buhaug, Burke, Fearon, Field, Hendrix, Kraan, Maystadt, O’Loughin, Roessler, Schreffan, Schultz, and von Uexkull. Earth'Future 8(7): 3-7.

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Vegetation changes attributable to refugees in Africa coincide with agricultural deforestation

2020: Maystadt, Mueller, Van Den Hoek and van Weezel,  Environmental Research Letters 15(4): 044008.

The recent adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees formally recognizes not only the importance of supporting the nearly 26 million people who have sought asylum from conflict and persecution but also of easing the pressures on receiving areas and host countries. However, few countries may enforce the Compact out of concern over the economic or environmental repercussions of hosting refugees. We examine whether narratives of refugee-driven landscape change are empirically generalizable to continental Africa, which fosters 34% of all refugees. Estimates of the causal effects of the number of refugees—located in 493 camps distributed across 49 African countries—on vegetation from 2000 to 2016 are provided. Using a quasi-experimental design, we find refugees bear a small increase in vegetation condition while contributing to increased deforestation. Such a combination is mainly explained not by land clearance and massive biomass extraction but by agricultural expansion in refugee-hosting areas. A one percent increase in the number of refugees amplifies the transition from dominant forested areas to cropland by 1.4 percentage points. These findings suggest that changes in vegetation condition may ensue with the elevation of population-based constraints on food security.

In utero seasonal food insecurity and cognitive development: Evidence on gender imbalances from Ethiopia

2020: Beshir and Maystadt, Journal of African Economies 29(4): 412-431.

Food insecurity is pervasive and highly seasonal in Ethiopia. In this study, we investigate the effect of seasonal food insecurity on child development. Exploiting the Young Lives Ethiopia dataset, we study the gender-specific impact of in utero exposure to seasonal food insecurity on cognitive development and the probability of being on the expected grade for children of age 8 up to 12. We find that at age 8 in utero exposure to food insecurity negatively affects cognitive development, only for boys. At age 12, such exposure significantly reduces cognitive development for all children, but with a significantly higher magnitude for boys. The impact is almost three times bigger compared to the one estimated for girls. Corroborated with other outcomes, we explain such gender imbalances by the accumulative nature of the scarring effect rather than the culling effect or gender differences in parental investment

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Climate as a risk factor for armed conflict

2019: Mach, Kraan, Adger, Buhaug, Burke, Fearon, Field, Hendrix, Maystadt, O’Loughin,



Schultz and 

von Uexkull. Nature 571: 193-197.

Research findings on the relationship between climate and conflict are diverse and contested. Here we assess the current understanding of the relationship between climate and conflict, based on the structured judgments of experts from diverse disciplines. These experts agree that climate has affected organized armed conflict within countries. However, other drivers, such as low socioeconomic development and low capabilities of the state, are judged to be substantially more influential, and the mechanisms of climate–conflict linkages remain a key uncertainty. Intensifying climate change is estimated to increase future risks of conflict.

Labor market integration of refugees to the U.S.: Do entrepreneurs in the network help?

2019: Dagnelie, Mayda and Maystadt. European Economic Review, 111, 257-272.

We investigate whether entrepreneurs in the network of refugees – from the same country of origin – help refugees enter the labor market by hiring them. We analyze the universe of refugee cases without U.S. ties who were resettled in the United States between 2005 and 2010. We address threats to identification due to refugees sorting into specific labor markets and to strategic placement by resettlement agencies. We find that the probability that refugees are employed 90 days after arrival is positively affected by the number of business owners in their network, but negatively affected by the number of those who are employees. This suggests that network members who are entrepreneurs hire refugees, while network members working as employees compete with them, which is consistent with refugees complementing the former and substituting for the latter.

Impacts of Hosting Forced Migrants in Poor Countries

2019: Maystadt, Hirvonen, Mabiso, and Vandercasteelen. Annual Review of Resource Economics, 11, 439-459.

Most of the world’s displaced people are hosted in low-income countries. Focusing on evidence from poor countries, we review the literature on the economic consequences of hosting refugees or internally displaced people. In the short run, violence, environmental degradation, and disease propagation are major risks to the host populations. In the long run, infrastructure, trade, and labor markets are key channels that determine the impacts on host communities. These impacts can be positive or negative and often unequally distributed among different hosts.We discuss policy options for building resilience in the light of this evidence. Investments in road infrastructure and deepening trade with refugees’ countries of origin are strategies worth exploring for enhancing resilience and transitioning from humanitarian assistance toward development. Finally, we identify key knowledge gaps in this literature and formulate a research agenda for the near future

The Development Push of Refugees: Evidence from Tanzania

2019: Maystadt and Duranton. Journal of Economic Geography, 19(2), 299-334.

We exploit a 1991–2010 Tanzanian household panel to assess the effects of the temporary refugee inflows originating from Burundi (1993) and Rwanda (1994). We find that the refugee presence has had a persistent and positive impact on the welfare of the local population. We investigate the possible channels of transmission, underscoring the importance of a decrease in transport costs as a key driver of this persistent change in welfare. We interpret these findings as the ability of a temporary shock to induce a persistent shift in the equilibrium through subsequent investments rather than a switch to a new equilibrium in a multiple-equilibrium setting.

The political economy of intergovernmental transfers: Evidence from Nigeria

2019: Maystadt and Salihu. Journal of Economic Geography, 19(5), 1119-1142

Rule-based intergovernmental transfers are often presented as the panacea to avoid the manipulation of transfers for political motives. We question that assertion in the case of Nigeria, where these transfers are highly dependent on natural resources and likely to be subject to elite capture. In this article, we use oil windfalls as a source of exogenous variation in the political discretion an incumbent government can exert in rule-based transfers. Exploiting within-state variation between 2007 and 2015 in Nigeria, an increase in VAT transfers induced by higher oil windfalls is found to improve the electoral fortune of an incumbent government. Our results question the promotion of rule-based transfers as a one-fits-all institutional solution in resource-abundant countries with relatively weak institutions.

Violence, Selection and Infant Mortality in Congo

2018: Dagnelie, De Luca and Maystadt. Journal of Health Economics, 59, 153-177

This paper documents the effects of the recent civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo on mortality both in utero and during the first year of life. It instruments for conflict intensity using a mineral price index, which exploits the exogenous variation in the potential value of mineral resources generated by changes in world mineral prices to predict the geographic distribution of the conflict. Using estimates of civil war exposure on mortality across male and female newborn to assess their relative health, it provides evidence of culling effect (in utero selection) as a consequence of in utero shocks.

The impact of weather variations on maize yields and household income: Income diversification as adaptation in rural China

2017: Jiliang, and Maystadt. Global Environmental Change, 42, 93-106

Climate change is threatening global food production and could potentially exacerbate food insecurity in many parts of the world. China is the second largest maize producer. Variations in maize yields in China are likely to have major implications for food security in the world. Based on longitudinal data of 4861 households collected annually between 2004 and 2010, we assess the impact of weather variations on maize yields in the two main producing regions in China, the Northern spring maize zone and the Yellow-Huai Valley summer maize zone. We also explore the role of adaptation, by estimating the response of Chinese farmers in both regions, in particular in terms of income diversification. With the use of household and time fixed effects, our estimates relate within-household variations in household outcomes (maize yields, net income, land and input use) to within-location variations in weather conditions. Temperature, drought, wet conditions, and precipitations have detrimental effects on maize yields in the two maize zones. The impact is stronger in the Northern spring maize zone where one standard deviation in temperature and drought conditions decreases maize yields by 1.4% and 2.5%, respectively. Nonetheless, such impact does not seem to translate into a significant fall in total net income. Adaptation seems to be key in explaining such a contrast in the Northern spring maize zone where the largest impact is estimated. On the contrary, we find a lower impact in the other region, the Yellow-Huai Valley summer maize zone but such impact is likely to intensify. The lack of adaptation observed in that region results into detrimental impacts on net farm and total income. Enhancing adaptative behaviors among Chinese farmers even further is likely to be key to future food security in China and in the rest of the world.

Is climate-induced income variability a driver of migration? A macro-economic perspective

2017: Marchiori, Maystadt and Schumacher. Migration & Development, 6(1), 33-59.

The role of environmentally induced income variability as a determinant of migration has been studied little to none. We provide a theoretical discussion based on a ‘risk aversion channel’ and an overview of the empirical literature on this. We also extend a previous empirical study on 39 sub-Saharan African countries with yearly data from 1960 to 2000 by including income variability and its weather determinants. Our findings lead us to acknowledge that, based on our dataset and methodology, income variability is a negligible driver of migration decisions at the macroeconomic level.

Local Warming and Violent Conflict in North and South Sudan

2015: Maystadt, Calderone and You. Journal of Economic Geography 15, 649-671.

Our article contributes to the emerging micro-level strand of the literature on the link between local variations in weather shocks and conflicts by focusing on a pixel-level analysis for North and South Sudan between 1997 and 2009. Temperature anomalies are found to strongly affect the risk of conflict, whereas the risk is expected to magnify in a range of 24–31% in the future under a median scenario. Our analysis also sheds light on the competition over natural resources, in particular water, as the main driver of such relationship in a region where pastoralism constitutes the dominant livelihood.

Environmental Migration and labor markets in Nepal

2016: Maystadt, Mueller and Sebastian. Journal of the Association of Resource and Environmental Economists, 3(2), 417-452.

While an emerging literature cites weather shocks as migration determinants, scant evidence exists on how such migration affects the markets of receiving communities in developing countries. We address this knowledge gap by investigating the impact of weather-driven internal migration on labor markets in Nepal. An increase of 1 percentage point in net migration reduces wages in the formal sector by 5.7%. A similar change in migration augments unemployment by 1 percentage point. The unskilled bear greater consequences. Understanding entrepreneurial constraints and drivers of labor market exits will inform pathways to resilience.

Extreme Weather and Civil War: Does Drought Fuel Conflict in Somalia through Livestock Price Shocks?

2014: Maystadt and Ecker. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 96(4), 1157-1182

A growing body of evidence shows a causal relationship between extreme weather events and civil conflict incidence at the global level. We find that this causality is also valid for droughts and local violent conflicts in a within-country setting over a short time frame in the case of Somalia. We estimate that a one standard deviation increase in drought intensity and length raises the likelihood of conflict by 62%. We also find that drought affects conflict through livestock price changes, establishing livestock markets as the primary channel of transmission in Somalia.

Mineral resources and conflicts in the DRC: A case of Ecological Fallacy

2014: Maystadt, De Luca, Sekeris and Ulimwengu. Oxford Economic Papers, 66, 721-749

We estimate the impact of geo-located mining concessions on the number of conflict events recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 1997 and 2007. Instrumenting the variable of interest with historical concessions interacted with changes in international prices of minerals, we unveil an ecological fallacy: whereas concessions have no effect on the number of conflicts at the territory level (lowest administrative unit), they do foster violence at the district level (higher administrative unit). We develop and validate empirically a theoretical model where the incentives of armed groups to exploit and protect mineral resources explain our empirical findings.

Does Food Security Matter for Transition in Arab Countries

2014: Maystadt, Trinh Tan and Breisinger. Food Policy, 46, 106-115

Expectations are high that transition in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen will bring about more freedom, justice, and economic opportunities. However, experiences from other world regions show that countries in transition are at high risk of entering conflicts, which often come at large economic, social and political costs. In order to identify options on how conflict may be prevented in Arab transition countries, this paper assesses the key global drivers of conflicts based on a dataset from 1960 to 2010 and improved cross-country regression techniques. Results show that unlike in other studies where per capita incomes, inequality, and poor governance, among other factors, emerge as the major determinants of conflict, food security at macro and household-levels emerges as the main cause of conflicts in the Arab World. The high exposure of Arab countries to global food price variations proves to be an important source of vulnerability for a peaceful Arab transition. If history is also a guide to the future, improving food security is not only important for improving the lives of rural and urban people; it is also likely to be the key for a peaceful transition. The paper concludes with a set of policy options on how to improve food security at macro and household-levels, including safeguard mechanisms against excessive price volatility, export-led and pro-poor growth, the creation/expansion of social safety nets and targeted nutrition programs.

Winners and Losers Among a Refugee-Hosting Population

2014: Maystadt and Verwimp. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 2014, 62(4), 769-809

The impact of a sudden, mass influx of forced migrants on the hosting economy is understudied and not well understood. Using a household panel data set for the Kagera region in Tanzania, we test the impact of the mass refugee presence on the welfare of the local population. Our identification strategy exploits variations in the timing of arrival as well as the spatial distribution of Rwandese and Burundi refugees. We find a positive and aggregate effect, but households are affected differently depending on their main initial occupation.

Weather Variations and Migration in Sub-Saharan Africa

2012: Marchiori, Maystadt and Schumacher. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 2012, 63(3),355-374.

This paper analyzes the effects of weather anomalies on migration in sub-Saharan Africa. We present a theoretical model that demonstrates how weather anomalies induce rural–urban migration that subsequently triggers international migration. We distinguish two transmission channels, an amenity channel and an economic geography channel. Based on annual, cross-country panel data for sub-Saharan Africa, we present an empirical model that suggests that weather anomalies increased internal and international migration through both channels. We estimate that temperature and rainfall anomalies caused a total net displacement of 5 million people during the period 1960–2000, i.e. a minimum of 128,000 people every year. Based on medium UN population and IPCC climate change projections, we expect future weather anomalies to lead to an additional annual displacement of 11.8 million people by the end of the 21st century.


Other publications

Book, book chapters, policy briefs, ...

  • Beine, M., L. Bertinelli, R. Comertpay, A. Litina, and J.-F Maystadt. 2019. Refugee mobility. Evidence from Phone Data in Turkey. In A.A. Salah, A. Pentland, B. Lepri, and E.  Letouzé. (Eds) Guide to Mobile Data Analytics in refugee Scenarios. Springer. pages 433-449.

  • Maystadt, J.-F. and C. Breisinger. 2015. The EU refugee crisis: the tip of a global iceberg. IFPRI Policy Brief, forthcoming. (peer-reviewed)

  • Calderone, M., D. Headey, and J.-F. Maystadt. 2014. “Resilience to Climate-Induced Conflict in the Horn of Africa.” (chapter 8) In Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security, edited by S. Fan, R. Pandya-Lorch, and S. Yosef, 65-73. Washington, DC: IFPRI (peer-reviewed)

  • Mabiso, A., J.-F. Maystadt, J. Vandercasteelen, and K. Hirvonen. 2014. “Resilience for Food Security in Refugee-Hosting Communities” In Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security, edited by S. Fan, R. Pandya-Lorch, and S. Yosef, 45-52. Washington, DC: IFPRI. (peer-reviewed)

  • Breisinger, C., O. Ecker, J.-F. Maystadt, J.-F. Trinh Tan, P. Al-Riffai, K. Bouzar, A. Sma, and M. Abdelgadir. 2014. (chapter 2)“Food Security Policies for Building Resilience to Conflict” In Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security, edited by S. Fan, R. Pandya-Lorch, and S. Yosef, 37-44. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute. (peer-reviewed)

  • Breisinger, C., O. Ecker, J.-F. Maystadt, J.-F. Trinh Tan, P. Al-Riffai, K. Bouzar, A. Sma, and M. Abdelgadir. 2014. How to Build Resilience to Conflict. The Role of Food Security. IFPRI Monograph. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute. (peer-reviewed)

  • Naudé, N., J.-F. Maystadt, A. de Brauw, R. Lucas, F. Gubert, F. Wouterse, H. de Haas (2013) The development potential of migration. WCAO Thematic Research Note 04. April 2013.

  • Maystadt, J.-F. and V. Mueller. 2012. Environmental Migrants : A Myth ? IFPRI Research Brief 18.

  • Maystadt J.-F. 2004. Micro-finance au Nord: Un effet de mode importé du Sud ?  Mondes en Développement 32(126), 69-82. (peer-reviewed)

  • Maystadt J.-F. 2004 La Micro-finance peut-elle fonctionner au Nord ? Apprentissage Sud-Nord, ed. Luc Pire, 175 pages. (Book)


Contact Details

Collège L. H. Dupriez,
3 Place Montesquieu, Box L2.06.01
B- 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgique)