Publications

Submitted
Sheely, Ryan. Submitted. “How Do Institutions Shape Public Goods Maintenance? Evidence from Rural Kenya.” British Journal of Political Science.
Khwaja, Asim, Tahir Andrabi, Natalie Bau, and Jishnu Das. Submitted. “Are Bad Public Schools "Public Bads"? Test Scores and Civic Values in Public and Private Schools”.Abstract

Enrollments in private schools have exploded in many low income countries during the last decade and now exceed 20 percent of primary enrollments in countries like India and Pakistan. The majority of these schools are small scale, low cost enterprises that effectively do not face any regulatory oversight or receive any government subsidies. This key feature offers a unique opportunity to evaluate the outcomes benefits (or lack thereof), not of vouchers or public support, but of a pure market model of educational provision. We combine data on household and school locations with test scores from Pakistan to provide instrumental variables estimates of public private differences in test scores and civic values. Since tests were administered by the research team in strictly controlled conditions, we are able to rule out the possibility of cheating. Our instrumental variables estimates show that test scores of children in private schools are standard deviation higher (depending on the subject) than those of their public school counterparts. Furthermore, and surprisingly, children in private schools also have better civic skills; they are better informed about Pakistan, more "pro-democratic and exhibit lower gender biases. Finally, the cost of educating a child in a private school is 40 percent lower than in a government school without factoring in administrative costs. This cost saving is equivalent to 5 percent of total village consumption expenditures in the sample. Adding in administrative costs could inflate the cost difference 2 times or more. These results argue for a reassessment of the fundamental model of education delivery in low income settings, where governance and accountability problems in public schools are common

PDF icon khwaja_a_-_bad_public_schools_2010-01-20.pdf
Hanna, Rema, and Iqbal Dhaliwal. Submitted. “Deal with the Devil: The Successes and Limitations of Bureaucratic Reform in India”.Abstract

Employing a technological solution to monitor the attendance of public-sector health care workers in India resulted in a 15 percent increase in the attendance of the medical staff. Health outcomes improved, with a 16 percent increase in the delivery of infants by a doctor and a 26 percent reduction in the likelihood of infants born under 2500 grams. However, women in treatment areas substituted away from the newly monitored health centers towards delivery in the (unmonitored) larger public hospitals and private hospitals. Several explanations may help explain this shift: better triage by the more present health care staff; increased patients’ perception of absenteeism in the treatment health centers; and the ability of staff in treatment areas to gain additional rents by moving women to their private practices and by siphoning off the state-sponsored entitlements that women would normally receive at the health center at the time of delivery. Despite initiating the reform on their own, there was a low demand among all levels of government–state officials, local level bureaucrats, and locally-elected bodies—to use the better quality attendance data to enforce the government’s human resource policies due to a fear of generating discord among the staff. These fears were not entirely unfounded: staff at the treatment health centers expressed greater dissatisfaction at their jobs and it was also harder to hire new nurses, lab technicians and pharmacists at the treatment health centers after the intervention. Thus, this illustrates the implicit deal that governments make on non-monetary dimensions—truancy, allowance of private practices—to retain staff at rural outposts in the face of limited budgets and staff shortages.

PDF icon deal_with_the_devil_wp_-_dec_2013.pdf
Yanagizawa-Drott, David, and Filipe Campante. Submitted. “Intergenerational Transmission of War”.Abstract

Does war service by one generation affect service by the next generation in later wars? Using data from major U.S. 20th-century wars, we exploit that closeness to age 21 at a time of war is a key determinant of the likelihood of participation. We find that a generation’s war service experience positively affects service by the next generation, with each war having substantially impacted those that followed. The  evidence is consistent with cultural transmission, and indicates that a history of  wars can help overcome the collective action problem of getting citizens to  volunteer for war service.

PDF icon intergenerational_transmission_of_war_wp_nov_2015.pdf
Yanagizawa-Drott, David, Tessa Bold, Kayuki C. Kaizzi, and Jakob Svensson. Submitted. “Low Quality, Low Returns, Low Adoption: Evidence from the Market for Fertilizer and Hybrid Seed in Uganda”.Abstract

To reduce poverty and food insecurity in Africa requires raising productivity in agriculture. Systematic use of fertilizer and hybrid seed is a pathway to increased productivity, but adoption of these technologies remains low. We investigate whether the quality of agricultural inputs can help explain low take-up. Testing modern products purchased in local markets, we find that 30% of nutrient is missing in fertilizer, and hybrid maize seed contains less than 50% authentic seeds. We document that such low quality results in negative average returns. If authentic technologies replaced these low-quality products, average returns for smallholder farmers would be over 50%.

PDF icon rwp15_033_yanagizawa.pdf
Banerjee, Abhijit, Rema Hanna, Jordan Kyle, Benjamin A. Olken, and Sudarno Sumarto. Submitted. “The Power of Transparency: Information, Identification Cards and Food Subsidy Programs in Indonesia”.Abstract

Can governments improve aid programs by providing information to beneficiaries? In our model, information can change how much aid citizens receive as they bargain with local officials who implement national programs. In a large-scale field experiment, we test whether mailing cards with program information to beneficiaries increases their subsidy from a subsidized rice program. Beneficiaries received 26 percent more subsidy in card villages. Ineligible households received no less, so this represents lower leakage. The evidence suggests that this effect is driven by citizen bargaining with local officials. Experimentally adding the official price to the cards increased the subsidy by 21 percent compared to cards without price information. Additional public information increased higher-order knowledge about eligibility, leading to a 16 percent increase in subsidy compared to just distributing cards. In short, increased transparency empowered citizens to reduce leakages and improve program functioning.

PDF icon rwp15_010_hanna.pdf
Hanna, Rema, Esther Duflo, and Michael Greenstone. Submitted. “Up in Smoke: The Influence of Household Behavior on the Long-Run Impact of Improved Cooking Stoves.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy Resubmitted.Abstract

It is conventional wisdom that it is possible to reduce exposure to indoor air pollution, improve health outcomes, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions in rural areas of developing countries through the adoption of improved cooking stoves. This is largely supported by observational field studies and engineering or laboratory experiments. However, we provide new evidence, from a randomized control trial conducted in rural Orissa, India (one of the poorest places in India) on the benefits of a commonly used improved stove that laboratory tests showed to reduce indoor air pollution and require less fuel. We track households for up to four years after they received the stove. While we find a meaningful reduction in smoke inhalation in the first year, there is no effect over longer time horizons. We find no evidence of improvements in lung functioning or health and there is no change in fuel consumption (and presumably greenhouse gas emissions). The difference between the laboratory and field findings appears to result from households’ revealed low valuation of the stoves. Households failed to use the stoves regularly or appropriately, did not make the necessary investments to maintain them properly, and usage rates ultimately declined further over time. More broadly, this study underscores the need to test environmental and health technologies in real-world settings where behavior may temper impacts, and to test them over a long enough horizon to understand how this behavioral effect evolves over time.

PDF icon R. Hanna CID WP #241 (2012)
Forthcoming
Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Tara Vishwanath, and Tristan Zajonc. Forthcoming. “Learning and Educational Achievements in Punjab Schools (LEAPS): Insights to inform the education policy debate.” Forthcoming, Oxford University Press., 1-199. Publisher's VersionAbstract

There have been dramatic changes in the educational landscape of Pakistan in the new millennium. Enrollments are starting to look up with a one percentage point jump in net enrollments between 2001 and 2005. In addition, secular, co-educational and for-profit private schools have become a widespread presence in both urban and rural areas. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of private schools increased from 32,000 to 47,000 and by the end of 2005, one in every three enrolled children at the primary level was studying in a private school.

Pande, Rohini, Abraham Holland, and Erica Field. Forthcoming. “Microfinance: Points of Promise.” Contemporary and Emerging Issues, for W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Ed. Jean Kimmel.
Khwaja, Asim, Tahir Andrabi, and Jishnu Das. Forthcoming. “Delivering Education: A Pragmatic Framework for Improving Education in Low-Income Countries.” Handbook of International Education.Abstract
Even as primary school enrollments have increased in most low income countries levels of learning remain low and highly unequal. Responding to greater parental demand for quality, low cost private schools have emerged as one of the fastest growing schooling options, challenging the monopoly of state provided education and broadening the set of educational providers. Historically, the rise of private schooling is always deeply intertwined with debates around who chooses what schooling is about and who represents the interests of children. We believe that this time is no different. But rather than first resolve the question of how child welfare is to be adjudicated, we argue instead for a `pragmatic framework’. In our pragmatic framework, policy takes into account the full schooling environment which includes public, private and other types of providers and is actively concerned with first alleviating constraints that prohibit parents and schools from fulfilling their own stated objectives. Using policy actionable experiments as examples, we show that the pragmatic approach can lead to better schooling for children: Alleviating constraints by providing better information, better access to finance or greater access to skilled teachers brings in more children into school and increases test scores in language and Mathematics. These areas of improvement are very similar to those where there is already abroad societal consensus that improvement is required.
PDF icon khwaja_a_-_delivering_education_book_chapter.pdf
Sheely, Ryan. Forthcoming. “Regimes & Randomization: Experimental Evidence from Rural Kenya.” Field Research in Authoritarian Conditions. Eds. Paul Good and Ariel Ahram. Oxford University Press.
2016
Pande, Rohini, Erica Field, Seema Jayachandran, and Natalia Rigol. 2016. “Friendship at Work:Can Peer E ffects Catalyze Female Entrepreneurship?.” American Economic Journal: Public Policy.Abstract

Does the lack of peers contribute to the observed gender gap in entrepreneurial success, and is the constraint stronger for women facing more restrictive social norms? We ordered two days of business counseling to a random sample of customers of India's largest women's bank. A random subsample was invited to attend with a friend. The intervention had a significant immediate impact on participants' business activity, but only if they were trained in the presence of a friend. Four months later, those trained with a friend were more likely to have taken out business loans, were less likely to be housewives, and reported increased business activity and higher household income. The positive impacts of training with a friend were stronger among women from religious or caste groups with social norms that restrict female mobility.

PDF icon friendship_at_work.pdf
Hanna, Rema, Vivi Alatas, Abhijit Banerjee, Benjamin A. Olken, Ririn Purnamasari, and Matthew Wai-Poi. 2016. “Self-Targeting: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia.” The Journal of Political Economy.Abstract
In this paper, we show that adding a small application cost to a social assistance program can substantially improve targeting because of the self-selection it induces. We conduct a randomized experiment within Indonesia’s Conditional Cash Transfer program that compares two of the most common methods of targeting welfare programs in the developing world: in one, beneficiaries first need to apply for the program, and then an enumerator visits them at home and determines their eligibility based on a proxy-means asset test; in the other, they are visited directly by the enumerator and automatically enrolled if they qualify based on the same proxy-means test. When applications were required, we find that the poor are more likely to apply than the rich, even conditional on whether they would pass the asset test. On net, the villages where applications were required have a much poorer group of beneficiaries than automatic enrollment villages. However, marginally increasing the cost of applying does not necessarily improve targeting: while experimentally increasing the distance to the application site reduces the number of applicants, it screens out both rich and poor in roughly equal proportions. Estimating our model of the enrollment choice suggests that our results are largely driven by the rich forecasting that they have a very small likelihood of passing the asset test, and so not bothering to apply, which in aggregate substantially improves targeting efficiency. The results suggest that the combination of the small cost and the final screening gives this class of mechanisms the ability to achieve many of the benefits of self-selection without imposing onerous ordeals on program beneficiaries.
PDF icon self-targeting_evidence_from_a_field_experiment.pdf
Pande, Rohini, Dean Karlan, Jake Kendall, Rebecca Mann, Tavneet Suri, and Jonathan Zinman. 2016. “Research and Impacts of Digital Financial Services”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A growing body of rigorous research shows that financial services innovations can have important positive impacts on wellbeing, but also that many do not. We first describe the latest evidence on what works in financial inclusion. Second, we summarize research on key financial market failures and on products and innovations that address specific mechanisms underlying them. We conclude by highlighting open areas for future work.

PDF icon researchandimpacts_digitalfinancialinclusion.pdf
2015
Callen, Michael. 2015. “Catastrophes and Time Preference: Evidence from the Indian Ocean Earthquake.” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 118 (October 2015): 199–214. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We provide evidence suggesting that exposure to the Indian Ocean Earthquake tsunami increased patience in a sample of Sri Lankan wage workers. We develop a framework to characterize the various channels through which disaster exposure could affect measures of patience. Drawing on this framework, we show that a battery of empirical tests support the argument that the increase in measured patience reects a change in time preference and not selective exposure to the event, migration related to the tsunami, or other changes in the economic environment which affect experimental patience measures. The results have implications for policies aimed at disaster recovery and for the literature linking life events to economic preferences.

Callen, Michael, Clark C. Gibson, Danielle F. Jung, and James D. Long. 2015. “Improving Electoral Integrity with Information and Communications Technology.” Journal of Experimental Political Science 3 (1). Publisher's VersionAbstract

Irregularities plague elections in developing democracies. The international community spends hundreds of millions of dollars on election observation, with little robust evidence that they consistently improve electoral integrity. We conducted a randomized control trial to measure the effect of an intervention to detect and deter electoral irregularities employing a nation-wide sample of polling stations in Uganda using scalable information and communications technology (ICT). In treatment stations, researchers delivered letters to polling officials stating that tallies would be photographed using smartphones and  ompared against official results. Compared to stations with no letters, the letters  ncreased the frequency of posted tallies by polling center managers in compliance with the law; decreased the number of sequential digits found on tallies – a fraud indicator; and decreased the vote share for the incumbent president, in some specifications. Our results demonstrate that a cost-effective citizen and ICT intervention can improve electoral integrity in emerging democracies.

PDF icon M. Callen in JEPS on Improving Electoral Integrity
Khwaja, Asim, Adnan Q. Khan, and Benjamin A. Olken. 2015. “Tax Farming Redux: Experimental Evidence on Performance Pay for Tax Collectors.” Quarterly Journal of Economics. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Performance pay for tax collectors has the potential to raise revenues, but might come at a cost if it increases the bargaining power of tax collectors vis-a-vis taxpayers. We report the first large-scale field experiment on these issues, where we experimentally allocated 482 property tax units in Punjab, Pakistan into one of three performance-pay schemes or a control. After two years, incentivized units had 9.4 log points higher revenue than controls, which translates to a 46 percent higher growth rate. The scheme that rewarded purely on revenue did best, increasing revenue by 12.9 log points (64 percent higher growth rate), with little penalty for customer satisfaction and assessment accuracy compared to the two other schemes that explicitly also rewarded these dimensions. The revenue gains accrue from a small number of properties becoming taxed at their true value, which is substantially more than they had been taxed at previously. The majority of properties in incentivized areas in fact pay no more taxes, but instead report higher bribes. The results are consistent with a collusive setting in which performance pay increases collectors’ bargaining power over taxpayers, who either have to pay higher bribes to avoid being reassessed, or pay substantially higher taxes if collusion breaks down.

PDF icon Tax Farming Redux: Experimental Evidence of Performance Pay for Tax CollectorsPDF icon Appendix
Hanna, Rema, Eva Arceo, and Paulina Oliva. 2015. “Does the Effect of Pollution on Infant Mortality Differ Between Developing and Developed Countries? Evidence from Mexico City.” The Economic Journal.Abstract

Much of what we know about the marginal effect of pollution on infant mortality is derived from developed country data. However, given the lower levels of air pollution in developed countries, these estimates may not be externally valid to the developing country context if there is a nonlinear dose relationship between pollution and mortality or if the costs of avoidance behavior differs considerably between the two contexts. In this paper, we estimate the relationship between pollution and infant mortality using data from Mexico. We find that an increase of 1 parts per billion in carbon monoxide (CO) over the last week results in 0.0032 deaths per 100,000 births, while a 1 μg/m3 increase in particulate matter (PM10) results in 0.24 infant deaths per 100,000 births. Our estimates for PM10 tend to be similar (or even smaller) than the U.S. estimates, while our findings on CO tend to be larger than those derived from the U.S. context. We provide suggestive evidence that a non-linearity in the relationship between CO and health explains this difference.

PDF icon does_the_effect_of_pollution.pdf
Levy, Dan, Joshua Yardley, and Richard Zeckhauser. 2015. “Getting an Honest Answer: Clickers in the Classroom”.Abstract

Asking students to raise their hands is a time-honored feedback mechanism in education. Hand raising allows the teacher to assess to what extent a concept has been understood, or to see where the class stands on a particular issue, and then to proceed with the lesson accordingly. For many types of questions, as the evidence here demonstrates, the tally from a public show of hands misrepresents the true knowledge or preferences of the class. The biases are predictable and systematic. Specifically, students raising their hands tend to herd and vote with the majority answer. Beyond impeding the teacher’s ability to assess her class, such herding threatens to diminish learning by limiting the level to which a student engages with the questions posed by the teacher.

PDF icon levy_zeckhauser_-_clickers_in_classroom_rwp15_071_-_nov_2015.pdf
Pande, Rohini, Michael Greenstone, Janhavi Nilekani, Nicholas Ryan, Anant Sudarshan, and Anish Sugathan. 2015. “Lower Pollution, Longer Lives. Life Expectancy Gains if India Reduced Particulate Matter Pollution.” Economic and Political Weekly,February 21m 2015, 50, 8, 40-46. Publisher's VersionAbstract

India’s population is exposed to dangerously high levels of air pollution. Using a combination of ground-level in situ measurements and satellite-based remote sensing data, this paper estimates that 660 million people, over half of India’s population, live in areas that exceed the Indian National Ambient Air Quality Standard for fine particulate pollution. Reducing pollution in these areas to achieve the standard would, we estimate, increase life expectancy for these Indians by 3.2 years on average for a total of 2.1 billion life years. We outline directions for environmental policy to start achieving these gains.

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