The Intergenerational Impacts of Capital for Microentrepreneurs: Long-Run Evidence from Flexible Credit Contracts in India (joint with Arielle Bernhardt, Erica Field, Rohini Pande, and Natalia Rigol). R&R at the American Economic Review.
Liquidity constraints often require poor entrepreneurs to allocate scarce capital between business and education investment opportunities. To examine this trade-off and implications for intergenerational mobility, we exploit experimental variation in income from a liquidity shock and track schooling and business outcomes over 11 years. On average, children from treatment households are 35% more likely to attend college. However, education gains only accrue to literate households. In contrast, illiterate treatment households experience declines in child schooling alongside microenterprise expansion and parental income gains. As a result, treatment lowers intergenerational educational mobility and forecasted earnings equality.
The Economics of Purity Norms: Caste, Social Interaction, and Women's Work in India (joint with Arielle Bernhardt).
Caste norms, the religious and social rules that underpin the Hindu caste system, impose strong constraints on behavior: women should stay secluded within the home, caste groups should stay segregated, and certain foods should not be eaten. This paper shows that caste norms are weakened when Hindus live alongside Adivasis, an indigenous minority outside of the caste system. Using a number of estimation strategies, including a historical natural experiment that led to local variation in Adivasi population share, we show that having more Adivasi neighbors decreases Hindus’ adherence to a wide range of caste rules. Hindu women in Adivasi-majority villages are 50% more likely to work and have substantially higher earnings. Individuals higher on the caste hierarchy are less likely to practice “untouchability” towards those lower than them and villages are more likely to be integrated. We argue that Hindus adhere to caste norms as an investment in status within the caste system, and that this investment is less valuable when Adivasis—a lower-status out-group—form a larger share of the village population. Consistent with this explanation, caste norms are weaker in areas where British colonial policy led Adivasis to hold more land and political power, increasing the returns to social and economic interactions with Adivasis independent of their population share.
The Making of a Public Sector Worker: The Causal Effects of Temporary Work Assignments to Poor Areas (joint with Mariel Bedoya).
Can temporary work assignments to poor areas affect worker preferences, beliefs, and career choices? We provide evidence on this question using random variation in the assignment of psychologists within a one-year mandatory rural service program in Peru. Psychologists that were assigned during the program to poorer places areas are later 16% more likely to work for the public sector and 89% more likely to work in the poorest districts in the country. Results for a broader set of health workers also show the same pattern. We provide survey evidence on psychologists that points to increased prosociality as an important mechanism.
The Role of Evidence in Policy Adoption (joint with Daniel Morales, Christopher Neilson, and Sebastian Otero).
The slow adoption of successful policies that are supported by rigorous scientific evidence is a challenge across developing countries. We conduct a field experiment with the universe of secondary school principals in the Dominican Republic to investigate whether sharing evaluation results via emails and calls improves the nationwide scale-up of an education information campaign. We find that the evidence treatment has no effect on adoption but that increasing the number of follow-up calls increases take-up by 30%. Low overall take-up rates contrast with initial pilot results. We conclude that simply providing information on existing research findings through light-touch interventions might not be enough to increase policy adoption.
The Equilibrium Effects of Improved Public Primary Healthcare: Evidence from the Health and Wellness Centers in India. Data collection is ongoing. SurveyCTO Webinar Presentation.
Search Costs, Biased Beliefs and School Choice under Endogenous Consideration Sets (joint with Claudia Allende, Adam Kapor, and Christopher Neilson). Data collection completed. AEA 2022 Presentation.
Lessons from the Covid Care Centers in West Bengal (joint with Abhijit Chowdhury, Jishnu Das, Parthasarathi Mukherjee, and Satyarup Siddhanta). Center for Policy Research Working Paper.
With the continuing emergence of Covid-19 variants, there is an underlying concern in all countries, including India, that another surge will occur in the coming months. In case of a surge like that experienced with the Delta variant, a strategy that deserves further attention for the provision of care in rural areas is the use of off-hospital sites for patients who are not severely ill. We discuss one such effort from the state of West Bengal, the lessons from which may be relevant for the management of surge cases for generalized pandemic planning. In March 2021, India experienced a large surge in Covid cases and the spike in patients led to a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen cylinders around the country. Following a notification by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that allowed organizations to set up care centers for the treatment of Covid-19 patients outside the hospital setting, the Liver Foundation and the Covid Care Network established eight Covid Care Centers in rural West Bengal. These centers were operational between May 2021 and September 2021, which coincided with the post-peak phase of the second Covid-19 wave in India. This report describes the project, summarizes the performance of the centers, and discusses the challenges faced during the project. We conclude that temporary facilities like the Covid Care Centers can be a viable option to provide urgent care during health emergencies.
Chasing the Indian Dream: Enabling and Equalizing Access to Economic Opportunity (joint with Nils Enevoldsen and Rohini Pande). Kautilya Economic Conclave 2022.
Over the last three decades, strong economic growth led India to transition from a low to lower middle-income country, and this was matched with significant improvements in individual well-being, on average. However, India’s growth has not been a tide that lifts all boats equally. Service-led growth has been urban biased and inter-generational occupational mobility remains strikingly low, especially in rural areas and among historically disadvantaged groups. Over the next three decades, India will witness one of the world’s largest additions to labor force. How can policy help ensure inclusive and sustainable growth that benefits all its citizens? This note outlines the distributional features of India’s current economic trajectory and highlights the need for state interventions to address market failures. We highlight five critical areas: the need for financial products - especially flexible credit products -- that enable human capital investments by the poor, the need for regulation (including use of market-based instruments) to account for negative externalities associated with certain economic activities, the need to complement public policies with transparency and accountability initiatives so that the citizens can know what is due to them and demand it, the need for expanded social protection programs that accommodate interstate migrants, a vulnerable yet critical group, and, finally, the need to permit regional and local flexibility in policy-making.