Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

Modeling the Dynamics of Poverty

24 Mar
Wednesday, 03/24/2021 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Virtual via Zoom
Rising Stars
Speaker: Rediet Abebe

Abstract:  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.

Bio: Rediet Abebe is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and an incoming Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. 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 is a co-founder and co-organizer of the multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research initiative Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG). Her dissertation received the 2020 ACM SIGKDD 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 representation issues in AI. Her research is influenced by her upbringing in her hometown of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The UMass Amherst CICS Rising Stars in Computer Science lecture series highlights the stellar work of young computer scientists about to launch into careers in academia. Join us to hear from rising stars working to solve pressing issues facing the field.

Join the Zoom meeting

A password is required to enter this Zoom event. If you need this password, please see the event announcements on the college email lists or contact Alex Taubman.