Working Papers
Abstract: Corruption in hiring for public sector jobs is common in developing countries and has been assumed to have a detrimental effect on delivery of government services. I collect original data from a hiring process in a developing country health bureaucracy in order to document the market structure and consequences of corrupt hiring practices. Hires paid large bribes to get their jobs, averaging 17 months of salary, and job allocations were made via a first-price, winner-pay, sealed bid auction. To establish the consequences of corruption, I collect data on the universe of potential applicants for these jobs and determine the set of applicants and hires under counterfactual hiring procedures, such as standardized testing. Contrary to conventional wisdom, actual hires are of a high quality, e.g. as compared to hires under a knowledge-based test, actual hires are 4.3-8.7 percentage points closer to the predicted optimal set of hires. This occurs because both of the key determinants of bribe offers, wealth and willingness to pay, are strongly positively correlated with quality. Applying this to a general model of hiring, I identify the jobs for which corruption in hiring will or will not lead to misallocation, and how to productively allocate anti-corruption resources.

Dowry payments are an important part of household finances in India, typically exceeding one to two years of household earnings. Yet there is little empirical evidence on determinants of dowry payments, with existing work relying on small and non-representative samples. In the first part of the paper, we leverage data on over 76,000 marriages to document stylised facts about changes in Indian marriage markets between 1930-2000. We show that although many marriage practices remain static over this time period, there were large changes in dowry payment. Between 1930-1975, the proportion of marriages with any dowry paid increased from 35-40% to nearly 90%. Over the same period, median real dowry more than doubled, but decreased after 1975 in real terms as well as a fraction of household income. In the second half of the paper, we use this data to test major theories of dowry: (i) whether dowry serves as a bequest to female children or is a groom price; (ii) if the increase in dowry prevalence resulted from lower castes adopting high caste practices (Sanskritization); (iii) how changes in sex ratios on the marriage market affect dowry (Marriage squeeze hypothesis); and (iv) if changes in dowry can be explained by hypergamy and cross-caste competition for grooms. We find that the patterns in the data do not support these theories, but instead that the changes are explained by shifts in the quality (earnings/education) distribution of brides and grooms. This has important implications for designing anti-dowry policies.

While the vast majority of minimum wage research has focused on possible disemployment and labor market effects, this paper examines its effect on prices. Utilizing detailed transaction-level datasets, we find minimal pass-through of minimum wage changes onto retail and grocery prices. This finding is robust to a number of identification strategies, such as matching counties across state boundaries, and is precisely identified. Additionally, we do not find evidence for anticipation/retrospective adjustment in prices, heterogeneous responses based on the size of the minimum wage change, or heterogeneous effects on consumers of different income groups. Data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages rationalize these findings. Since labor is a relatively small portion of total costs in this sector and the effect of the minimum wage on labor costs is modest, this leads to minimal response in prices. Estimates from other industries suggest that, aside from the restaurant and fast-food sectors, this low pass-through holds more generally. 

Works in Progress

Intrahousehold Spillovers of Incarceration: Evidence from Ohio and Pennsylvania (with Sam Norris and Matt Pecenco)

Incarceration, Health, and Death (with Sam Norris and Matt Pecenco)

Timing of Cash Transfers and Child Health (with Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus and Sandip Sukhtankar)

Designing Hiring Systems: Theory and Empirical Evidence