Jonah Rexer

Jonah Rexer
  • Applied Economics Doctoral Student

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    3000 Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall
    3620 Locust Walk
    Suite 3000
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: development economics, environmental and resource economics, political economy, conflict



MPA/ID, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2016

BA, Stanford University, 2012

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  • Jonah Rexer, Do local investors reduce organized crime: Evidence from indigenization laws in the Nigerian oil sector.

  • Jonah Rexer, Origins of the resource curse: Colonial trade monopolies and the development of the Niger Delta (working paper coming soon).

    Abstract: Throughout the colonies, imperial governments granted trade monopolies and administrative power to chartered companies. From 1879-1900, the Royal Niger Company controlled the export of palm oil and import of manufactured goods in certain areas of Southern Nigeria. I test whether this trade monopoly catalyzed long-run institutional changes that made these areas more susceptible to the resource curse. Using a geographic regression discontinuity, I find that villages within the Company borders have more militias active in the Niger Delta Crisis -- a long-running violent conflict over resource control in oil-producing communities in Nigeria -- and experience more violence as a result. These areas also have fewer public goods and lower levels of economic development. Combining colonial administrative records and current public opinion data, I show that the trade monopoly undermined the pre-colonial mercantile economy, resulting in less powerful chiefs and weaker local traditional institutions in the present day. The results demonstrate how temporary changes in market structure can weaken institutions in the long-run, allowing natural resources to be curse rather than a blessing.

  • Jonah Rexer, Delta Boys: The effect of amnesty on militancy, black markets, and the environment.

    Abstract: Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) programs, a common feature of post-conflict reconstruction efforts, may generate perverse incentives if the market structure and political economy of illegal activities underlying the conflict are ignored. I study a program in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta in which militant commanders and their fighters were given amnesty and cash grants in exchange for disbanding their militias after nearly a decade of violent insurgency. In an event-study, I find that amnesty was successful in reducing high-profile militant attacks on the oil and gas industry, but had unintended consequences. Oil bunkering -- illegally tapping into oil pipelines for sale on the black market -- spiked after the Amnesty. Using differences-in-differences, I show that this growth is concentrated in localities controlled by militant commanders who accepted the Amnesty, and is driven by attacks on the most profitable pipelines. I also test downstream effects of the policy on oil production and environmental pollution, quantifying the negative externality generated by increased oil spills. I consider several hypotheses to explain the results: i) that amnesty changed the structure of competition among gangs over oil pipelines, ii) that amnesty payments provided financing for bunkering activity to credit constrained militants, and iii) that amnesty represents an equilibrium to a dynamic bargain between militants and government.

  • Jonah Rexer (Work In Progress), The Brides of Boko Haram: Economic Shocks, Marriage Practices, and Insurgency in Nigeria.

    Abstract: Unmarried young men are often believed to cause social unrest. This paper documents that imbalances in the marriage market are indeed linked to greater violence in the context of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. Marriage markets in rural Nigeria are characterized by the customs of bride-price -- pre-marital payments from the groom to the family of the bride -- and polygamy. These norms diminish marriage prospects for young men, causing them to join violent insurgencies. Using an instrumental variables strategy, I find that greater inequality of brides among men increases the incidence of militant activity by Boko Haram. To instrument for marriage inequality, I exploit the fact that young women delay marriage in response to good pre-marital economic conditions, which increases marriage inequality more in polygamous villages. Supporting the mechanism, I find that the same positive female income shocks which increase marriage inequality and extremist activity also reduce female marriage hazard, lead women to marry richer and more polygamous husbands, generate higher average marriage expenditures, and increase abductions and violence against women. The results shed light on the marriage market as an important but hitherto neglected driver of violent extremism.


Past Courses


    This course will introduce you to "managerial economics" which is the application of microeconomic theory to managerial decision-making. Microeconomic theory is a remarkably useful body of ideas for understanding and analyzing the behavior of individuals and firms in a variety of economic settings. The goal of the course is for you to understand this body of theory well enough so that you can effectively analyze managerial (and other) problems in an economic framework. While this is a "tools" course, we will cover many real-world applications, particularly business applications, so that you can witness the usefulness of these tools and acquire the skills to use them yourself. We will depart from the usual microeconomic theory course by giving more emphasis to prescription: What should a manager do in order to achieve some objective? That course deliverable is to compare with description: Why do firms and consumers act the way they do? The latter will still be quite prominent in this course because only by understanding how other firms and customers behave can a manager determine what is beswt for him or her to do. Strategic interaction is explored both in product markets and auctions. Finally, the challenges created by asymmetric information - both in the market and within the firm - are investigated.


Latest Research

Jonah Rexer, Do local investors reduce organized crime: Evidence from indigenization laws in the Nigerian oil sector.
All Research