Michael Callen

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.

M. Callen in JEPS on Improving Electoral Integrity
Callen, Michael, Leonardo Bursztyn, Bruno Ferman, Ali Hasanain, and Noam Yuchtman. 2015. “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, Yasir Khan, and Arman Rezaee. 2015. “Personalities and Public Sector Performance: Evidence from a Health Experiment in Pakistan”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

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, 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.” Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development. ACM. ACM. 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.

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.

Callen, Michael, Saad Gulzar, Ali Hasanain, Abdul Rehman Khan, Yasir Khan, and Muhammad Zia Mehmood. 2013. “Improving Public Health Delivery in Punjab, Pakistan: Issues and Opportunities.” The Lahore Journal of Economics 18 (SE): 249-269. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Pakistan has a large and dispersed primary public health system that gives citizens access to trained doctors and staff, and to subsidized medicines. However both the use of these facilities and health outcomes remain low. Improvements in information and communications technology provide exciting opportunities to leverage technology to improve management. This paper presents a detailed qualitative and quantitative study of the institutional context in which such interventions in the public health sector in Punjab would be trialed. We describe the structure and management of primary healthcare facilities, present selected results from a survey of a representative sample of basic health units, and identify some key issues. We also report and discuss officials’ responses to the question of how services might be improved.

Callen, Michael, and Nils B. Weidmann. 2013. “Violence and Election Fraud: Evidence from Afghanistan.” British Journal of Political Science 43 (1): 53-75. Publisher's VersionAbstract
What explains local variation in electoral manipulation in countries with ongoing internal conflict? The theory of election fraud developed in this article relies on the candidates’ loyalty networks as the agents manipulating the electoral process. It predicts (i) that the relationship between violence and fraud follows an inverted U-shape and (ii) that loyalty networks of both incumbent and challenger react differently to the security situation on the ground. Disaggregated violence and election results data from the 2009 Afghanistan presidential election provide empirical results consistent with this theory. Fraud is measured both by a forensic measure, and by using results from a visual inspection of a random sample of the ballot boxes. The results align with the two predicted relationships, and are robust to other violence and fraud measures.
Callen, Michael, and Ali Hasanain. 2011. “The Punjab Model of Proactive Governance: Empowering Citizens through Information Communication Technology - Findings from an Early Review of Evidence.” http://www.punjabmodel.gov.pk/. Punjab Model of Proactive Governance.Abstract

The Punjab Model represents the novel application of Information Communications Technology (ICT) to engage citizens and to close the space for extortion in the delivery of public services. The program has three objectives. First, the program seeks to deter corruption by monitoring petty officials through large-scale solicitation of service beneficiary feedback. Second, it seeks to promote direct citizen engagement and thereby signal commitment to service provision on the part of the government. Last, it seeks to improve services by allowing citizens to report problems.

Callen, Michael, Eli Berman, Joseph H Felter, and Jacob N Shapiro. 2011. “Do Working Men Rebel: Insurgency and Unemployment in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 55 (4): 496-528. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Most aid spending by governments seeking to rebuild social and political order is based on an opportunity-cost theory of distracting potential recruits. The logic is that gainfully employed young men are less likely to participate in political violence, implying a positive correlation between unemployment and violence in locations with active insurgencies. The authors test that prediction in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines, using survey data on unemployment and two newly available measures of insurgency: (1) attacks against government and allied forces and (2) violence that kill civilians. Contrary to the opportunity-cost theory, the data emphatically reject a positive correlation between unemployment and attacks against government and allied forces (p< .05 percent). There is no significant relationship between unemployment and the rate of insurgent attacks that kill civilians. The authors identify several potential explanations, introducing the notion of insurgent precision to adjudicate between the possibilities that predation on one hand, and security measures and information costs on the other, account for the negative correlation between unemployment and violence in these three conflicts.