Computer Science Colloquium: Rediet Abebe, UC Berkeley, “Modeling the Impact of Shocks on Poverty”
Fri, May 14th, 2021
3:15 pm - 4:30 pm
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Friday, May 14 @ 3:15pm
Rediet Abebe, UC Berkeley & Harvard Society of Fellows
Join Zoom Meeting:
Modeling the Impact of Shocks on Poverty
The dynamic nature of poverty presents a challenge in designing effective assistance policies. A significant gap in our understanding of poverty is related to the role of income shocks in triggering or perpetuating cycles of poverty. Such shocks can constitute unexpected expenses — such as a medical bill or a parking ticket — or an interruption to one’s income flow. Shocks have recently garnered increased public attention, in part due to prevalent evictions and food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, shocks do not play a corresponding central role in the design and evaluation of poverty-alleviation programs.
To bridge this gap, we present a model of economic welfare that incorporates dynamic experiences with shocks and pose a set of algorithmic questions related to subsidy allocations. We then computationally analyze the impact of shocks on poverty using a longitudinal, survey-based dataset. We reveal insights about the multi-faceted and dynamic nature of shocks and poverty. We discuss how these insights can inform the design of poverty-alleviation programs and highlight directions at this emerging interface of algorithms, economics, and social work.
Rediet Abebe is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley and a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. Abebe holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Cornell University and graduate degrees in mathematics from Harvard University and the University of Cambridge. Her research is in artificial intelligence and algorithms, with a focus on equity and justice concerns. Abebe co-founded and co-organizes Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG) — a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary initiative. Her dissertation received the 2020 ACM SIGKDD Dissertation Award and an honorable mention for the ACM SIGEcom Dissertation Award for offering the foundations of this emerging research area. Abebe’s work has informed policy and practice at the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Ethiopian Ministry of Education. She has been honored in the MIT Technology Reviews’ 35 Innovators Under 35 and the Bloomberg 50 list as a one to watch. Abebe also co-founded Black in AI, a non-profit organization tackling equity issues in AI. Her research is influenced by her upbringing in her hometown of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
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