Research

Working Papers

The Effect of Parental and Sibling Incarceration: Evidence from Ohio (with Sam Norris and Matt Pecenco) Revise and Resubmit at the American Economic Review

Every year, millions of Americans experience the incarceration of a family member. Using 30 years of administrative data from Ohio and exploiting differing incarceration propensities of randomly assigned judges, this paper provides the first quasi-experimental estimates of the effects of parental and sibling incarceration in the US. Contrary to conventional wisdom, parental incarceration has relatively beneficial effects on children, reducing their likelihood of incarceration by 3.2 percentage points and improving their adult socioeconomic status. We also reject policy-relevant effects of parental incarceration on academic performance and teen parenthood. Sibling incarceration has similar effects, reducing incarceration likelihood by 6.7 percentage points.

Jobs for Sale: Bribery and Misallocation in Hiring [submitted]

Corruption in hiring for public sector jobs is common in developing countries and has been thought to have a detrimental effect on government service delivery. This paper documents the workings and consequences of corrupt hiring systems with original data from a developing country health bureaucracy. Hiring decisions are shown to be based on a first-price, winner-pay auction, and those hired paid large bribes to get their jobs, averaging 17 months of salary. To establish the consequences of corruption, I collect data on the universe of potential applicants for these jobs and determine the sets of applicants and hires under merit-based hiring procedures, such as standardized testing. Contrary to conventional wisdom, actual hires are of a high quality and are even superior to hires under on a knowledge-based test. This result has a simple economic explanation: the key determinants of bribe offers (i.e. applicant wealth and willingness to pay) are strongly positively correlated with performance in the job. I discuss how the effects of corruption in hiring are heterogeneous and depend on factors such as the extent of rent-seeking opportunities afforded by the job. Misallocation can be minimal in hiring for jobs with limited opportunities for corruption, such as teachers and health workers, but is greater for jobs such as tax collectors or police officers.

Online Theory Appendix

Coverage: VoxDev

Marriage Markets and The Rise of Dowry in India (with Gaurav Chiplunkar) [New draft!] Online Appendices

Dowry payments are nearly universal in contemporary Indian marriages and typically exceed a year of earnings. This paper uses data on over 70,000 historical marriages to document and explain the emergence of dowry in India. We find that between 1930 and 1975, the proportion of marriages with dowry increased from less than 40% to over 85%, while the average size of dowry payments tripled. Since 1975, the proportion of marriages with dowry has remained steady, and the average size of dowry payments has declined. We test five prominent theories of dowry to determine which, if any, can explain these patterns. The data support only one of the theories -- that increased differentiation in groom quality during economic modernization led to the rise of dowry. Finally, we provide evidence that the post-1975 decline in dowry payments can be explained by marriage market competition, where the size of dowries paid to higher quality grooms decreased as the number of high quality grooms increased.

Coverage: Live Mint , Ideas For India

Improving Last-Mile Service Delivery using Phone-Based Monitoring (with Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus and Sandip Sukhtankar) [Latest Draft] [NBER WP] [AEA registry] [submitted]

Improving "last mile" public-service delivery is a recurring challenge in developing countries. Could the rapid adoption of mobile phones provide a simple, cost-effective means to do so? We evaluate the impact of a phone-based monitoring system on improving the delivery of a program that transferred nearly a billion dollars to farmers in the Indian state of Telangana, using an at-scale experiment randomized across 5.7 million farmers. A randomly selected sample of officials were told that a representative sample of beneficiaries in their jurisdiction would be called to measure the quality of program implementation. This simple announcement led to a 1.5% increase in the number of farmers receiving their benefits, with a 3.3% increase among farmers in the bottom quartile of landholdings. The program was highly cost-effective, with a cost of 3.6 cents for each additional dollar delivered.

Coverage: Hindustan Times Op-ed, Financial Express