Morgan Hardy, assistant professor of economics, spends about one quarter of each year conducting fieldwork in various regions of Ghana. Her primary interest is in development economics, with a topical focus on firms, labor markets, and social networks.
What research are you currently working on?
I am generally interested in ways of raising the income of people living in low-income countries. For the majority of these people, work outside of agriculture comes in the form of self-employment in very small, often informal, firms. Most of my research to date has focused on better understanding barriers to the profitability of these firms.
Where exactly do you conduct most of your fieldwork?
I have spent over three years of my life in Africa. I currently have multiple active field projects in five sectors: garment making, cosmetology, masonry, carpentry and welding in 32 districts and all 10 regions of Ghana. During graduate school I was able to be very hands on, spending four months at a time in the field, directly interacting with my subject and staff on a daily basis. As a professor, with more responsibility, I need to do more delegating, but I am still in the field for all major survey design, training and launch activities. Altogether, this is about 1/4 of each year spent on field time.
Why is fieldwork critical for your research?
For me, fieldwork is both necessary and beneficial. It is necessary, because the questions I am asking do not currently have the data I need to answer them. These small firms are largely undocumented by existing statistical organizations, especially in the detail I need for my work. I cannot download my data. I have to go out and get it.
How does your location in Abu Dhabi contribute to your scholarly work?
Abu Dhabi is an exciting place to be a social scientist. It feels as if all of the world collides here. To be in a place where one naturally interacts with people from so many places and backgrounds in a typical day is humbling and inspiring. Keeping an open mind and a global perspective is a high priority for me as a field researcher, in order to keep the relevance of my questions and the pursuit of their answers at a level I can be proud of.