Working Paper
Levy, Dan, Joshua Yardley, and Richard Zeckhauser. Working Paper. “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.

Callen, Michael, Leonardo Bursztyn, Bruno Ferman, Ali Hasanain, and Noam Yuchtman. Working Paper. “Identifying Ideology: Experimental Evidence on Anti-Americanism in Pakistan”.Abstract

Identifying the role of intrinsic, ideological motivation in political behavior is confounded by agents' consequential aims and social concerns. We present an experimental methodology isolating Pakistani men's intrinsic motives for expressing anti-American ideology in a context with clearly-specied nancial costs, but negligible other consequential or social considerations. Following a survey, we offer subjects a bonus payment. One-quarter of subjects forgo around one-fifth of a day's wage to avoid anonymously checking a box indicating gratitude toward the U.S. government, revealing anti-Americanism. Wefind that even extremists moderate their political expression when the nancial cost is high and when anticipating public expression.

Callen, Michael, Saad Gulzar, Ali Hasanain, and Yasir Khan. Working Paper. “The Political Economy of Public Sector Absence: Experimental Evidence from Pakistan”.Abstract

In many developing countries, public sector absence is both common and resistant to reform. One explanation is that politicians preferentially provide public jobs with limited work requirements as patronage. We test this patronage hypothesis in Pakistan using: (i) a randomized evaluation of a novel smartphone absence monitoring technology; (ii) data on election outcomes in the 240 constituencies  where the experiment took place; (iii) attendance recorded during unannounced visits; (iv) surveys of connections between politicians and health staff; and (v) a survey of the universe of health supervisors. Four sets of results are consistent with this view. First, 36 percent of health officers report interference by a politician in the previous year when sanctioning an employee and report this twice as often in uncompetitive constituencies. Second, doctors are 21 percentage points less likely to be present if they know their politician, 32 percentage points less likely to be present if they work in an uncompetitive constituency, and are only at work during 10 percent of normal reporting hours if both conditions are true. Third, the effect of the smartphone monitoring technology, which almost doubled inspection rates, is highly localized to competitive constituencies and to monitored employees who do not know their politician. Last, we find evidence that program impact is in part due to the transmission of information to senior officers. We test this by manipulating the salience of staff absence in data presented to senior officials using an online dashboard. Highlighting absence leads to larger subsequent improvements in attendance for facilities located in a competitive constituencies.

Callen, Michael, Joshua Blumenstock, and Tarek Ghani. Working Paper. “Violence and Financial Decisions: Evidence from Mobile Money in Afghanistan”.Abstract

We examine the relationship between violence and nancial decisions in Afghanistan. Using three separate data sources, we nd that individuals experiencing violence retain more cash and are less likely to adopt and use mobile money, a newfinancial technology. We first combine detailed information on the entire universe of mobile money transactions in Afghanistan with administrative records for all violent incidents recorded by international forces, and find a negative relationship between violence and mobile money use. Second, in the context of a randomized control trial, violence is associated with decreased mobile money use and greater cash balances. Third, in financial survey data from nineteen of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, we find that individuals experiencing violence hold more cash. Collectively, the evidence indicates that individuals experiencing violence prefer cash to mobile money. More speculatively, it appears that this is principally because of concerns about future violence. The degree of the relationship between cash holdings and violence is large enough to suggest that robust formal nancial networks face severe challenges developing in conflict environments.

Yanagizawa-Drott, David, and Filipe Campante. Working Paper. “Do Campaign Contribution Limits Matter? Evidence from the McCain-Feingold Act”.Abstract

We propose a novel method to estimate the impact of campaign contribution limits, and use it to study the effect on U.S. House Elections of the increased limits introduced by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform (”McCain-Feingold”) Act enacted after the 2002 elections. We first estimate the amount of contributions that had been left unrealized by the presence of the relatively strict limit and were then brought into existence by the reform, and then analyze whether and how the change affected election outcomes and the behavior of politicians. The results indicate that aggregate contributions were 25 percent higher as a result of the higher limit, and that this increase disproportionally went to Republican candidates. We further show that the contributions brought in by the reform led to significantly higher turnout in the 2004 elections (2.6% increase in response to a 10% increase in individual contributions). This effect was essentially driven by an increase in the mobilization of Republican voters, with no evidence of increased mobilization of Democratic voters, consistent with the fact that the Republican candidates on average attracted more of the contributions induced by the reform. A roll-call analysis further shows that incumbent Democratic legislators responded, in the 2003-2004 Congress, by becoming relatively less liberal in places with more new contributions induced by the reform. Together, our results provide evidence that raising limits on individual campaign contributions can affect elections and the incentives faced by politicians in ways that increase political participation, but disproportionally benefit certain political parties.

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

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.

Yanagizawa-Drott, David, and Jakob Svensson. 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.

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%.

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)
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.
Pande, Rohini, Sean Lewis-Faupe, Yusuf Negger, and Benjamin A. Olken. Forthcoming. “Can Electronic Procurement Improve Infrastructure Provision?Evidence from Public Works in India and Indonesia.” American Economic Journal: Public Policy.Abstract

Poorly functioning, and often corrupt, public procurement procedures are widely faulted for the low quality of infrastructure provision in developing countries. Can electronic procurement (e-procurement), which reduces both the cost of acquiring tender information and personal inter-action between bidders and procurement officials, ameliorate these problems? In this paper we develop a unique micro-dataset on public works procurement from two fast-growing economies, India and Indonesia, and use regional and time variation in the adoption of e-procurement across both countries to examine its impact. We find no evidence that e-procurement reduces prices paid by the government, but do find that it is associated with quality improvements. In India, where we observe an independent measure of construction quality, e-procurement improves the average road quality, and in Indonesia, e-procurement reduces delays in completion of public works projects. Bidding data suggests that an important channel of influence is selection {regions with e-procurement have a broader distribution of winners, with (better) winning bidders more likely to come from outside the region where the work takes place. On net, the results suggest that e-procurement facilitates entry from higher quality contractors

Pande, Rohini, Erica Field, Seema Jayachandran, and Natalia Rigol. Forthcoming. “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.

Pande, Rohini, Timothy Besley, Jessica Leight, and Vijayendra Rao. Forthcoming. “Long-Run Impacts of Land Regulation:Evidence from Tenancy Reform in India.” Journal of Developmental Economics.Abstract

Land reform policies have been widely enacted across the developing world. How-ever, despite the central importance of land as an asset in low-income economies, evidence about the long-run impact of such policies remains limited. In this paper, we provide evidence about these long-run effects by combining the quasi-random assignment of linguistically similar areas to South Indian states that subsequently pursued different tenancy regulation policies with cross-caste variation in landownership. Roughly thirty years after the bulk of land reform occurred, land inequality is lower in more regulated areas, but the impact differs by caste group. Tenancy reforms increase own-cultivation among middle caste households, but render low caste households more likely to work as daily agricultural laborers. At the same time, an increase in agricultural wages is observed. These results are consistent with credit markets playing a central role in determining the long-run impact of land reform: tenancy regulations increased land sales to the relatively richer and more productive middle caste tenants but reduced land access for poorer low caste tenants

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.
Sheely, Ryan. Forthcoming. “Regimes & Randomization: Experimental Evidence from Rural Kenya.” Field Research in Authoritarian Conditions. Eds. Paul Good and Ariel Ahram. Oxford University Press.
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.