Cyril is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Brown University, with concentrations in Comparative Politics and International Relations. His research combines the political economy of development and social epidemiology to study the wellbeing of populations affected by crisis and migration. He uses cutting-edge, quasi-experimental and qualitative methods to investigate how forced migration affects wellbeing and how governments and civil society respond to the needs of migrant populations. He has published over 30 scientific articles and chapters in field-leading journals and edited volumes, including Social Science & Medicine, PLoS ONE, BMC Public Health, the Journal of Adolescent Health, Disasters, Publius, and the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.
Cyril has previously held senior research positions at Columbia University’s Program on Forced Migration and Health, the CPC Learning Network, the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, and the University of Indonesia’s School of Social and Political Sciences. He has completed projects for a variety of partners, including the World Bank, USAID, DFAT, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF. He has a Master’s in Public Health from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science from the University of Michigan.
Remittances, Rentierism, and Development: How Migrants Support their Hometowns When States are Unaccountable
My three-article dissertation seeks to understand how migrant remittances affect sustainable development in Guatemala and traces the various mechanisms underlying this relationship. In the first article, I combine quasi-experimental and qualitative methods to compare remittance effects on health and education. Using a novel time-series dataset of Guatemalan municipalities spanning the 2018-2021 period and leveraging a shift-share instrument, I demonstrate that remittances significantly improve several indicators of population health and government health spending but reduce educational coverage. I then draw on semi-structured interviews to show that remittances contribute to health by enabling recipients to purchase goods and services, but that equivalent gains in education are offset by a shortage of high schools, a low return on schooling, and a culture of migration. My second article builds on these findings by introducing a typology of bottom-up mechanisms by which remittance recipients may channel their money into health improvements. Pairing an instrumental-variable analysis of administrative data with a time-series analysis of household survey data, I then find that remittances increase recipient participation in private and customary markets, through consumption and savings, but have no detectable effect on voter turnout, protest activity, or citizen-led development programs, indicating an overall dearth of social accountability effects. Finally, my third article combines two-way-fixed effects models with an analysis of qualitative interview data to argue that pervasive rent-seeking among Guatemala’s politicians, frontline service providers, and businesspeople undermine efforts to channel remittances into transformative development initiatives. Fearing expropriation, remittance recipients direct their money towards goods and services that are difficult to expropriate, rather than in collective projects, such as water and sanitation infrastructure, which could easily be exploited by rent-seekers. The dissertation contributes to several strands of population science and social science literature concerned with migration and government accountability, while also producing evidence to inform policy debates on migration governance and international development.
Job Market Paper Title
The Two Faces of Remittances: How Migrant Cash Transfers Promote Health but Undermine Education in Guatemala
Job Market Paper Abstract
How do remittances affect development in migrant-sending communities? Migrant remittances constitute among the most substantial international capital transfers to the Global South annually, yet the evidence that they improve development remains equivocal. Combining quasi-experimental and qualitative methods, I investigate the effects of remittances on health and education in Guatemala. Using a novel time-series dataset of Guatemalan municipalities spanning the 2018-2021 period and leveraging a shift-share instrument, I demonstrate that remittances improve several indicators of health but also reduce school enrollment. I then draw on semi-structured interviews to show that remittances contribute to health by enabling recipients to purchase goods and services, but that equivalent gains in education are offset by a shortage of high schools, a low return on schooling, and a culture of migration. I conclude that, in the absence of complementary social policies, remittances may alleviate short-term deprivations, but they may also imperil other dimensions of sustainable development.