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.
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.
R. Hanna CID WP #241 (2012)
Hanna, Rema, Eva Arceo, and Paulina Oliva. Forthcoming. “Does the Effect of Pollution on Infant Mortality Differ Between Developing and Developed Countries? Evidence from Mexico City,” Accepted at the Economic Journal April 15, 2015, .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.
Rema, Hanna, Vivi Alatas, Abhijit Banerjee, Benjamin A. Olken, Ririn Purnamasari, and Matthew Wai-Poi. Forthcoming. “Self-Targeting: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia,” Accepted at 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.
R. Hanna NBER Working Paper w19127 - Self-Targeting (2013)
Callen, Michael, Clark C. Gibson, Danielle F. Jung, and James D. Long. Forthcoming. “Improving Electoral Integrity with Information and Communications Technology,” Journal of Experimental Political Science, .Abstract
Free and fair elections, the cornerstone of modern democratic government, require officials to count and aggregate ballots accurately. The international community spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year trying to ensure fair elections in developing countries with widespread electoral malpractice. One common donor policy deploys election observers to improve electoral integrity. Such missions, however, have not typically followed scientific designs to detect, nor have they had any consistent effects on, electoral malfeasance. This means that the widely publicized observer verdicts of whether an election is “free or fair” are based largely on anecdotal and unsystematic data.
M. Callen in JEPS on Improving Electoral Integrity
Hanna, Rema, and Paulina Oliva. 2015. “Moving Up the Energy Ladder: The Effect of a Permanent Increase in Assets on Fuel Consumption Choices in India,” American Economic Review, 105 (5 (May 2015): 242-46. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Rising household wealth may potentially impact both total fuel consumption and fuel-type composition, resulting in significant health and environmental implications. Using data from a field experiment in India, we explore the effects of a transfer program that provided poor, rural households with greater levels of assets and cash. Total fuel consumption rose as a result of the transfers. Households shifted from using electricity rather than kerosene as their primary form of light, but total kerosene consumption also rose. In contrast, we did not observe a shift to cleaner cooking fuels.
Hanna, Rema, Abhijit Banerjee, Gabriel Kreindler, and Benjamin A. Olken. 2015. “Debunking the Stereotype of the Lazy Welfare Recipient: Evidence from Cash Transfer Programs Worldwide”.Abstract
Targeted transfer programs for poor citizens have become increasingly common in the developing world. Yet, a common concern among policy makers - both in developing as well as developed countries - is that such programs tend to discourage work. We re-analyze the data from 7 randomized controlled trails of government-run cash transfer programs in six developing countries throughout the world, and find no systematic evidence that cash transfer programs discourage work.
Hanna: Debunking Labor Supply WP
Hanna, Rema, Sendhil Mullainathan, and Joshua Schwartstein. 2015. “Learning Through Noticing: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 129 (3): 1311-1353. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We consider a model of technological learning under which people “learn through noticing”: they choose which input dimensions to attend to and subsequently learn about from available data. Using this model, we show how people with a great deal of experience may persistently be off the production frontier because they fail to notice important features of the data they possess. We also develop predictions on when these learning failures are likely to occur, as well as on the types of interventions that can help people learn. We test the model’s predictions in a field experiment with seaweed farmers. The survey data reveal that these farmers do not attend to pod size, a particular input dimension. Experimental trials suggest that farmers are particularly far from optimizing this dimension. Furthermore, consistent with the model, we find that simply having access to the experimental data does not induce learning. Instead, behavioral changes occur only after the farmers are presented with summaries that highlight previously unattended-to relationships in the data.
R. Hanna in QJE: "Learning Through Noticing..."
Callen, Michael, Saad Gulzar, Ali Hasanain, Yasir Khan, and Arman Rezaee. 2015. “Personalities and Public Sector Performance: Evidence from a Health Experiment in Pakistan”.Abstract
This paper provides evidence that the personality traits of policy actors matter for policy outcomes in the context of two large-scale experiments in Punjab, Pakistan. Three results support the relevance of personalities for policy outcomes. First, doctors with higher Big Five and Perry Public Sector Motivation scores attend work more and falsify inspection reports less. Second, health inspectors who score higher on these personality measures exhibit a larger treatment response to increased monitoring. Last, senior health officials with higher Big Five scores are more likely to respond to a report of an under-performing facility by compelling better subsequent staff attendance.
Callen, Michael, Suresh De Mel, Craig McIntosh, and Christopher Woodruff. 2015. “What are the Headwaters of Formal Savings? Experimental Evidence from Sri Lanka”.Abstract
When households increase their deposits in formal bank savings accounts, what is the source of the money? We combine high-frequency surveys with an experiment in which a Sri Lankan bank used mobile Point-of-Service (POS) terminals to collect deposits directly from households each week. In this context, the headwaters of formal savings are to be found in sacrificed leisure time: households work more, and work more on the wage market when savings options improve. These results suggest that the labor allocation channel is an important mechanism linking savings opportunities to income.
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, Jean Imbs, and Paolo Mauro. 2015. “Pooling Risk Among Countries,” Journal of International Economics, 96 (1): 88-99. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Suppose that international sharing risk—worldwide or with large numbers of countries—were costly. How much risk-sharing could be gained in small sets (or “pools”) of countries? To answer this question, we compute the means and variances of poolwide gross domestic product growth, for all possible pools of any size drawn from a sample of 74 countries, and compare them with the means and variances of consumption growth in each country individually. From the difference, we infer potential diversification and welfare gains. As much as two-thirds of the first best, full worldwide welfare gains can be obtained in groupings of as few as seven countries. The largest potential gains arise from pools consisting of countries in different regions and including countries with weak institutions. We argue that international risk-sharing fails to emerge because the largest potential gains are among countries that do not trust each other's willingness and ability to abide by international contractual obligations.
Callen, Michael, Joshua E. Blumenstock, Tarek Ghani, and Lucas Koepke. 2015. “Promises and Pitfalls of Mobile Money in Afghanistan: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial”. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Despite substantial interest in the potential for mobile money to positively impact the lives of the poor, little empirical evidence exists to substantiate these claims. In this paper, we present the results of a field experiment in Afghanistan that was designed to increase adoption of mobile money, and determine if such adoption led to measurable changes in the lives of the adopters. The specific intervention we evaluate is a mobile salary payment program, in which a random subset of individuals of a large firm were transitioned into receiving their regular salaries in mobile money rather than in cash. We separately analyze the impact of this transition on both the employer and the individual employees. For the employer, there were immediate and significant cost savings; in a dangerous physical environment, they were able to effectively shift the costs of managing their salary supply chain to the mobile phone operator. For individual employees, however, the results were more ambiguous. Individuals who were transitioned onto mobile salary payments were more likely to use mobile money, and there is evidence that these accounts were used to accumulate small balances that may be indicative of savings. However, we find little consistent evidence that mobile money had an immediate or significant impact on several key indicators of individual wealth or well-being. Taken together, these results suggest that while mobile salary payments may increase the efficiency and transparency of traditional systems, in the short run the benefits may be realized by those making the payments, rather than by those receiving them.
Khan, Adnan Q., Asim I. Khwaja, and Benjamin A. Olken. 2015. “Tax Farming Redux: Experimental Evidence on Performance Pay for Tax Collectors”. Tax Farming Redux: Experimental Evidence of Performance Pay for Tax Collectors Appendix
Callen, Michael, and James D. Long. 2015. “Institutional Corruption and Election Fraud: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan,” American Economic Review, 105 (1): 354-81. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We investigate the relationship between political networks, weak institutions, and election fraud during the 2010 parliamentary election in Afghanistan combining: (i) data on political connections between candidates and election officials; (ii) a nationwide controlled evaluation of a novel monitoring technology; and (iii) direct measurements of aggregation fraud. We find considerable evidence of aggregation fraud in favor of connected candidates and that the announcement of a new monitoring technology reduced theft of election materials by about 60 percent and vote counts for connected candidates by about 25 percent. The results have implications for electoral competition and are potentially actionable for policymakers.
M. Callen in AER on Institutional Corruption in Afghanistan
Hanna, Rema, and Paulina Oliva. 2015. “The Effect of Pollution on Labor Supply: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Mexico,” The Journal of Public Economics, 122 (February 2015): 68-79. Publisher's VersionAbstract
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.
R. Hanna in JPE on Effect of Pollution in Mexico, CID WP #225 (2011)
Hanna, Rema, Vivi Alatas, Abhijit Banerjee, Benjamin Olken, Matthew Wai-Poi, and Ririn Purnamasari. 2014. “Targeting the Poor: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia.” International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), Impact Evaluation Report, 12. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Governments of developing countries often lack verifiable income information for poor people and communities. This makes targeting for social programs a challenge. This report provides results from a randomised control trial that was designed to better understand how to improve targeting in Indonesia. Specifically, during the expansion of Indonesia’s real conditional cash transfer program, Program Keluarga Harapan (PKH), we randomized three different targeting methodologies — proxy means testing, self-targeting and community targeting – across 600 villages. We found that, when poverty is defined by consumption, self-targeting identifies poorer beneficiaries than proxy means testing and it has lower administrative costs. Community targeting is less effective than proxy means testing in identifying the poor based on per capita consumption, but it results in higher satisfaction levels with the program.
Hanna, Rema, and Michael Greenstone. 2014. “Environmental Regulations, Air and Water Pollution, and Infant Mortality in India,” American Economic Review, 104 (October 2014) (10): 3038-3072. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Using the most comprehensive developing country dataset ever compiled on air and water pollution and environmental regulations, the paper assesses India's environmental regulations with a difference-in-differences design. The air pollution regulations are associated with substantial improvements in air quality. The most successful air regulation resulted in a modest but statistically insignificant decline in infant mortality. In contrast, the water regulations had no measurable benefits. The available evidence leads us to cautiously conclude that higher demand for air quality prompted the effective enforcement of air pollution regulations, indicating that strong public support allows environmental regulations to succeed in weak institutional settings.
Banerjee, Abhijit, Donald Green, Jeffrey McManus, and Rohini Pande. 2014. “Are Poor Voters Indifferent to Whether Elected Leaders are Criminal or Corrupt? A Vignette Experiment in Rural India,” Political Communications, 31 (3): 391-407.Abstract
Although in theory, elections are supposed to prevent criminal or venal candidates from winning or retaining office, in practice voters frequently elect and re-elect such candidates. This surprising pattern is sometimes explained by reference to voters’ underlying preferences, which are thought to favor criminal or corrupt candidates because of the patronage they provide. This paper tests this hypothesis using data from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where one in four representatives in the state legislature has a serious criminal record and where political corruption is widespread. Contrary to the voter preference hypothesis, voters presented with vignettes that randomly vary the attributes of competing legislative candidates for local, state, and national office become much less likely to express a preference for candidates who are alleged to be criminal or corrupt. Moreover, voters’ education status, ethnicity, and political knowledge are unrelated to their distaste for criminal and venal candidates. The results imply that the electoral performance of candidates who face serious allegations likely reflects factors other than voters’ preferences for patronage, such as limited information about candidate characteristics or the absence of credible alternative candidates with clean records. 
Pande, Rohini, Benjamin Feigenberg, Erica Field, Natalia Rigol, and Shayak Sarkar. 2014. “Do Group Dynamics Influence Social Capital Gains Among Microfinance Clients? Evidence From a Randomized Experiment in Urban India,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 33 (4): 932-949. journal_of_policy_analysis_vol_33_no_4_pande_2014.pdf