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Elinor Benami

Assistant Professor
Elinor Benami headshot
250 Drillfield Dr.
315 Hutcheson Hall

Elinor Benami's current research spans environment and development economics and policy. Her work involves how to appropriately use satellite imagery to enhance disaster relief financing, largely in developing country contexts. She also works with US regulators to investigate how novel data sources and experiments can enhance environmental compliance in the US.


Development economics; environmental and natural resource economics


Ph.D., Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment & Resources, Stanford University, 2018

B.A., Economics, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010


Elinor's overseas research experience spans Brazil, Uganda, Kenya, and Indonesia -- and in the years ahead she will be doing more work on (and looking for students to work with her on) irrigation adoption decisions and drought risk financing options in the arid, olive-growing regions of Morocco as a NASA-funded early career scientist (link here).

I use both economics and land systems science to help uncover how digital data can help predict, detect, and remedy environmental hazards that affect human welfare.  My research aims to help farmers improve their resilience to weather risk as well as inform public agencies to enhance their effectiveness.

Specific projects include:

How emerging digital technologies (e.g., mobile money, digital credit scoring, and earth observation) can reshape rural markets for savings, credit and insurance services.

Uniting Advances in Remote Sensing, Crop Modeling, & Economics for Understanding and Managing Weather Risk in Agriculture.

The Distributive Effects of Risk Prediction in Environmental Compliance: Algorithmic Design, Environmental Justice, and Public Policy

The Producer Response to Eco-Certification:  Evidence from the Quality, Quantity, and Consistency of Brazilian Coffee Production


For more information about my research program, visit my personal website:

Current teaching:

  • AAEC 3324: Environmental Economics and Sustainable Development (Spring)
  • Graduate - AAEC 5544/GEOG 5544/FREC 5544: Remote Sensing for Social Scientists (Fall)

Previously taught courses and seminars:

  • The Economics of Index Insurance [Short Course for Remote Sensing Specialists in Nairobi, Kenya]
  • Co-Instructor of Short Course for Remote Sensing Specialists in Nairobi, Kenya
  • Environmental Governance 
  • ECON/ESS 106/206: World Food Economy
  • Honors Seminar on Energy in Transition: De-Carbonizing America


  • Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech, Aug. 2020 - Present
  • Postdoctoral Scholar, Agricultural and Resource Economics Department, University of California Davis, Nov. 2018 - Aug. 2020

Awards and Honors

Rising Environmental Leaders Program, Stanford University 2018

Preparing Future Professors Program, Stanford University & Foothill College 2018

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship 2013 - 2017


Academic Manuscripts

Benami, E., Carter, M. R. accepted and in production, Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy. "Can Digital Technologies Reshape Rural Finance? Implications for Credit, Insurance, and Saving"

Benami, E.*, Zhenong J.*, Carter M.R., Kenduiywo, B., Ghosh A., Hobbs, A.W., Hijmans R., and Lobell, D. accepted and in production, Nature Reviews Earth & Environment "Uniting Advances in Remote Sensing, Crop Modeling, & Economics for Agricultural Risk Management." *Joint first authors.

Benami, E., Whitaker, R., Anderson, B., Ho D.E., La, V., Lin, H. Accepted for peer-reviewed proceedings of the ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (FAccT). "The Distributive Effects of Risk Prediction in Environmental Compliance: Algorithmic Design, Environmental Justice, and Public Policy."

Hino, M.*, Benami, E.*, Brooks, N. October 2018. "Machine learning for environmental monitoring." Nature Sustainability. *Joint first authors

Benami, E., Curran, L.M., Cochrane, M., Venturieri, A., Swartos, A., Moraes Franco R., Kneipp, J.. March 2018. "Oil palm land conversion in Para, Brazil, 2006-2014: Evaluating the 2010 Brazilian Sustainable Palm Oil Production Program." Environmental Research Letters. 13(3): 1-12

Carley, S., Lawrence, S., Brown, A. Nourafshan, A., Benami, E. 2010 August. "Energy-Based Economic Development." Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 15(1): 282-295.