Ellen McCullough

Ellen McCullough is an Assistant Professor in the Agricultural and Applied Economics Department at the University of Georgia. She joined the UGA faculty in fall 2016. Ellen’s general research interest lies in understanding the role of agriculture in economic development and poverty reduction, with an emphasis on Sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, she is interested in how improved agricultural technologies and other poverty-reducing interventions affect people’s time use, occupations, and overall welfare. In her current research projects, she is examining the links between labor productivity and occupational choice in Tanzania, the impacts of technological change in Brazilian agriculture, and the effects of poverty-reducing interventions on time use in Ethiopia.

Ellen mostly utilizes nationally representative household survey data collected by national statistics offices. She has spent a considerable amount of time in the field working with different types of survey teams in Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, India (Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh), Bhutan, and Mexico (Sonora). Ellen’s research also focuses on climate change adaptation in developing countries. She is currently using research trial data to model the site-specific returns to soil health investments across Sub-Saharan Africa in the face of climate uncertainty. All of her research, in some way, relates back to the goal of prioritizing investments, policies, and other interventions in developing countries.

Ellen received her PhD in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University in 2016. Before returning to graduate school, Ellen worked for four years as an Associate Program Officer in Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, where she developed a portfolio of grants to support improved agricultural policies and better data to support decision making in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. She also played a role in shaping strategic priorities for the Agricultural Development program. Before working for the foundation, Ellen spent several years working as an economist for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy. There, she coordinated a research project focused on the changing organization of value chains in developing countries.

Ellen graduated with BS and MS degrees from Stanford University in Earth Systems, an interdisciplinary environmental science program, in 2004. At Stanford, she was involved in interdisciplinary research to address negative externalities of high-input agriculture in developing countries. In the Yaqui Valley of northwestern Mexico, home of the wheat Green Revolution, she worked with an interdisciplinary team of physical and natural scientists to understand the interactions between farm level fertilizer management, greenhouse gas fluxes, climate change, nitrogen runoff, and downstream aquatic ecosystems. She also studied water resource management in the Sonoran desert, including reservoir management rules incorporating medium range climate forecasts, canal lining investments, water pricing and allocation procedures, and farm level irrigation practices.

Ellen currently teaches World Food Economy, an upper-division undergraduate course modeled after the Stanford course that initially piqued her interest in international agricultural development. World Food Economy is a survey course exploring agriculture’s many roles in the global economy vis a vis production, economic development, food security, political economy, and environmental resource management. She is developing new courses, so stay tuned!