ZHAI, Yalei | Center for Southeast Asian Studies Kyoto University

ZHAI, Yalei

ZHAI, Yalei
Research Departments・Position
Political & Economic Coexistence
Associate Professor
Area
Area Studies, Development Economics
Research Interests / Keywords
・Poverty issues in rural Southeast Asia
・Household decision-making Modeling
Contact
zhai@cseas.kyoto-u.ac.jp

ZHAI, Yalei

Problem-oriented Approaches of Poverty Studies in Rural Southeast Asia: Integrating Economics into Area Studies

As an Yunnanese, I proudly identify myself a Southeast Asian. I am deeply interested in how social norms, culture and values affect the dynamic changing southeast Asia society. My research endeavors involve investigating Southeast Asia from both an insider's perspective, as a native, and an outsider's perspective, as a researcher affiliated with the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) at Kyoto University.
For the past 13 years, I have conducted ongoing, unique field research in Myanmar, which is part of the Golden Triangle, historically famous for its high-yield opium products. By utilizing methods from both development economics and area studies, I have been able to shed light on the poverty problem in post-opium and post-conflict Myanmar.
Through this analysis, I have found that, even though households were provided with the same opportunities, such as sugarcane contract farming and casino employment, regardless of their wealth status, poor households were still unable to take advantage of them. Simultaneously, members of the poor households tended to exhibit altruism and present bias, prioritizing their immediate benefits and tending to over-consume once they acquire short-term income. Consequently, income disparity between wealthier and poorer households widened. In summary, whenever opportunities or shocks arose, it was the poor households that were the least benefited or most heavily impacted, highlighting the vulnerability of the poor.