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Clifford Zinnes

Pronouns: He/Him

Clifford is a multi-sector expert in measurement, statistical evaluation, and sampling for aid effectiveness.

Clifford specializes in the application of quantitative methods and institutional economics to improve aid effectiveness and economic reform in developing countries. Clifford’s work experience includes a dozen years designing and overseeing impact evaluations and 25 years designing and analyzing economic policy in international trade, taxation, environmental regulation, privatization, and the business-enabling environment

Current areas of research include predicting household propensity to use child labor and statistical calibration methods for improving the accuracy of crowd-sourced forecasting in conflict areas.

Clifford has designed and implemented experimental and quasi-experimental randomized evaluations for irrigation, agricultural support services, public sector transparency and governance initiatives, water and sanitation, transport (road, river, ports), forced labor (various sectors), pollution abatement, children’s nutrition, and forest land restitution for MCC, USAID, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Cape Verde, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Romania, and Zambia. During his five years as the senior advisor to the ministers of environment and of privatization of four governments in Romania, Clifford designed and drafted both framework legislation as well as follow-up regulations in the areas of state enterprise privatization, environmental protection, and water management.

In addition to having started an environmental non-government organization in Romania and a twenty-person economic analysis firm in the United States, he has been a staff member of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (Vienna, Austria) and has been on the faculties of Harvard University (Economics and The Kennedy School) and the University of Maryland (Economics and School of Public Policy). He was also the director of research at the IRIS Center for Institutional Reform and the Informal Sector and the deputy director of the International Environment Program at the Harvard Institute for International Development.

Among the countries where Clifford has conducted research and evaluations are Afghanistan/Pakistan, Belize, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, The Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, Peru, The Philippines, Romania, Thailand, and Zambia.

Clifford’s latest book is Tournament Approaches to Public Policy in Developing Countries (The Brookings Institution 2009), which followed The Size and Character of the Informal Economy in Mongolia, (Soros). Recent book chapters appeared in Civil Power in Irregular Conflict, Land Policies and Fiscal Decentralization, Politics and Society in Romania. His journal articles can be found in the IMF Staff Papers, Economics of Transition, International Journal of Organizational Theory and Behavior, World Development, Journal of Human Rights, and several others.

Clifford has received grants from the Brookings Institution, The Harvard Institute for International Development, and the Kershner Foundation. He is also editorial peer reviewer for a number of economics and political science journals. Clifford is U.N.-certified in Spanish proficiency and has a working knowledge of French and Romanian.  

Project Contributions

Democracy, Human Rights & Governance: Learning, Evaluation & Research Activity

Generating and promoting the use of data, evidence, and learning to inform DRG programming worldwide


U.S. Agency for International Development

Evaluating USAID’s Counter-Trafficking Efforts in Cambodia

NORC assesses whether job programs can reduce labor trafficking


U.S. Agency for International Development

Impact Evaluation of the IUWASH Tangguh Activity

Assessing household water security and city-wide water service resilience in urban Indonesia


U.S. Agency for International Development

Tanzania Data for Development Activity

Improving education, health, poverty, governance, and economic development


U.S. Agency for International Development