Gerda Asmus 
Research Associate | PhD Candidate

Alfred Weber Institute for Economics
University of Heidelberg

I joined the Chair of International and Development Politics as a doctoral student under the supervision of Prof. Axel Dreher in September 2015. Previously, I have earned my master’s degree in public policy from Maastricht Graduate School of Governance. My research focuses on development economics and economic history.

During the academic year 2019/2020, I will be on leave as a visiting graduate student at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). 



My research centers around two fields. My first field is the analysis of international development finance. I am particularly interested in emerging donor countries, such as India and China. My second field is devoted to the effects of historical events on regional differences in economic development. For both fields I digitize and geocode spatial data and use satellite data. Please find abstracts of my ongoing work below.


Keywords: state capacity, governance, economic development, Russia

State capacity and local economic development. Evidence from the Urals in the aftermath of Pugachev's 1773-1775 rebellion (joint with Raphaël Franck)

This study investigates the causal effect of state capacity at the subnational level on economic development. For this purpose, it takes advantage of the increase in state capacity in the aftermath of the largest peasant rebellion in Tsarist Russia which took place in the southern part of the Urals between 1773 and 1775. There is indeed ample historical evidence suggesting that in the wake of the rebellion, the Russian imperial state increased the number of military and civilian administrators in the southern Urals. The empirical approach compares changes in developmental outcomes in areas marginally affected by the rebellion to those who were marginally not affected, by employing a geographic regression discontinuity design along the boundary of the rebels' movements. The results suggest that the local development of state capacity following the rebellion had persistent effects on economic development until World War I.

Keywords: colonialism, discrimination, trust, development, Kenya

The Emergency. British detention camps and the origins of distrust in Kenya (joint with Richard Bluhm, Tobias Korn)

This study examines the long-run effects of British detention camps in colonial Kenya on contemporary economic well-being and trust. During the dawn of colonial rule in Kenya, the British Empire was confronted with a violent uprising to which it responded with far-reaching measures, in effect suspecting anyone sharing the ethnicity of the so-called Mau Mau tribes, and incarcerating a significant share of the native population between 1954 and 1959. Exploiting geographic and individual characteristics to identify the affected individuals and households, we show that individuals exposed to detention camps have worse development outcomes today. We use rich contemporary survey data to document that affected individuals tend to be less trusting, accumulate less wealth, and are less literate, even though their ethnic kin belong to the ruling class of contemporary Kenya. We are currently geocoding historical census data to control for pre-camp location characteristics and assess well-being from the 1960s onwards.

Keywords: development finance, emerging donors, China, India

China-India Aid Competition? An Analysis of Chinese and Indian Development Projects (joint with Vera Z. Eichenauer, Andreas Fuchs, Bradley Parks)

China and India increasingly provide grants, loans, export credits, and other types of state financing to other developing countries. Theory and news reports suggest that the Asian giants compete for political and commercial influence. We investigate this hypothesis by building a new geocoded dataset of officially financed Indian projects abroad between 2007 and 2014. The paper is the first to examine how the receipt of Chinese development and trade finance influences India’s allocation of official finance across and within developing countries. To account for the endogeneity of official financial support from China, we use instrumental variables that exploit exogenous variation in the supply of Chinese official finance. We find that India increases its activities in response to more Chinese official financing with some delay. The effects are more pronounced in African countries and visible in both India's development and trade finance.



Publications (peer reviewed)

Community delivery of antiretroviral drugs: A non-inferiority matched-pair pragmaticcluster-randomized trial in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
PLOS Medicine Vol. 15(9), 2018

Short articles and working papers

Russia's foreign aid re-emerges
Blog article on AidData's The First Tranche

BRICS and Foreign Aid

AidData Working Paper #43. Williamsburg, VA: AidData at William & Mary.

Intended for publication in The World Scientific Reference on the Economies of the BRIC Countries (edited by Edward Mansfield & Nita Rudra), World Scientific Publishing



Winter 2016/17, Winter 2017/18, Winter 2018/19

Teaching assistant for Macroeconomics (bachelor)

Winter 2016/17, Summer 2018

Teaching assistant for Institutional Economics (master)

Winter 2016/17 - present

Co-supervision of bachelor and master theses, seminar papers


Heidelberg University
Bergheimer Street 58
69115 Heidelberg, Germany

gerda.asmus [at]

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