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
Callen, Michael, Eli Berman, Clark Gibson, and James D. Long. 2014. “Election Fairness and Government Legitimacy in Afghanistan”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

International development agencies invest heavily in institution building in fragile states, including expensive interventions to support democratic elections. Yet little evidence exists on whether elections enhance the domestic legitimacy of governments. Using the random assignment of an innovative election fraud-reducing intervention in Afghanistan, we find that decreasing electoral misconduct improves multiple survey measures of attitudes toward government, including: (1) whether Afghanistan is a democracy; (2) whether the police should resolve disputes; (3) whether members of parliament provide services; and (4) willingness to report insurgent behavior to security forces.

Callen, Michael, Joshua Blumenstock, and Tarek Ghani. 2014. “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.

Callen, Michael, Mohammad Isaqzadeh, James Long, and Charles Sprenger. 2014. “Violence and Risk Preference: Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan.” American Economic Review 104 (1): 123-148.Abstract

We investigate the relationship between violence and economic risk preferences in Afghanistan combining: (i) a two-part experimental procedure identifying risk preferences, violations of Expected Utility, and specific preferences for certainty; (ii) controlled recollection of fear based on established methods from psychology; and (iii) administrative violence data from precisely geocoded military records. We document a specific preference for certainty in violation of Expected Utility. The preference for certainty, which we term a Certainty Premium, is exacerbated by the combination of violent exposure and controlled fearful recollections. The results have implications for risk taking and are potentially actionable for policymakers and marketers.

Khwaja, Asim, Tahir Andrabi, and Jishnu Das. 2011. “The Madrassa Controversy: The Story Does Not Fit The Facts.” Under the Drones: Modern Lives in Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands. Eds. Shahzad Bashir and Robert Crews. Harvard University Press, June 2011.Abstract

Over the last few years, US and international foreign policy concerns have focused on the rise of extremism in the Islamic world. Pakistan, considered as pivotal in the war on terror, is mentioned as prominent case. There is by now a widespread conventional narrative surrounding the role of the Pakistani educational system in the rise of religious extremism in the country. The general claim is that the public schooling system in Pakistan is failing especially for the poor. As a result, large numbers are exiting the state system both through attrition or lack of enrollment in the first place. Madrassas have proliferated to fill the vacuum as a result of the Pakistani state and society to provide mainstream schooling opportunities for its children, especially for the poorest segments of the population. This narrative has been presented in the international media and also in policy circles in the United States in many policy studies. The Af-Pak policy framework developed under the Obama administration has also highlighted this point.