The three essays study distinct issues related to the well-being of rural households. The first essay evaluates public investments in forest-based microenterprises as part of an integrated conservation and development project in the Brazilian Amazon. I use matching with regression methods to quantify the effects of program participation on household income and wealth (reflecting development) and livelihoods (reflecting conservation). I find that participation increased cash income by a quarter, and participants accumulated twice as many assets over the program period. There is no direct evidence, however, that the microenterprise program shifted households towards more conservation-compatible livelihoods as reflected by agricultural production and labor allocation to the forest.
In the second essay, I use a representative sample of 845 coffee growers in southern Mexico to estimate price premiums associated with participating in Fair Trade-organic cooperatives. While FT-organic growers do receive higher prices, I find that premiums have a small effect on household income. For the 2004-2005 season, Fair Trade-organic growers received 12.7 cents per pound more than non-certified independent growers. For the median Fair Trade-organic grower, the premium corresponded to a gross income gain of 4.5 percent of total income or about 26 dollars per household member.
The third essay uses a unique natural experiment involving the introduction of a pruning technique to study social learning. The effects of pruning can only be observed two years after a plant is pruned, a characteristic that aids in identifying social learning apart from correlated unobservable variables that are a concern in the social learning and technology adoption literature. I use panel data that start when a private initiative introduced systematic pruning in central Peru and that contain the population of participating growers. I find that there is an initial wave of adoption as growers experiment in concert, but little adoption occurs in the following year when the effects of pruning are still unclear. Consistent with social learning, another wave of adoption occurs in the next year when the effects of pruning are easily observed.