Publications by Year: 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.

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.


Tax Farming Redux: Experimental Evidence of Performance Pay for Tax Collectors Appendix
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.

Pande, Rohini. 2015. “Keeping Women Safe.” Harvard Magazine, January-February, 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Addressing the root causes of violence against women in South Asia

Pande, Rohini, Sharon Barnhardt, and Erica Field. 2015. “Moving to Opportunity or Isolation? Network Effects of a Randomized Housing Lottery in India”.Abstract

A housing lottery in an Indian city provided winning slum dwellers the opportunity to move into improved housing on the city’s periphery. Fourteen years later, relative to lottery losers, winners report improved housing farther from the city center, but no change in family income or human capital. Winners also report increased isolation from family and caste networks and lower access to informal insurance. We observe significant program exit: 34% of winners never moved into the subsidized housing and 32% eventually exited. Our results point to the importance of considering social networks when designing housing programs for the poor.

Pande, Rohini. 2015. “Why Are Indian Children So Short?”.Abstract

India's child stunting rate is among the highest in the world, exceeding that of many poorer African countries. In this paper, we analyze data for over 174,000 Indian and Sub-Saharan African children to show that Indian firstborns are taller than African firstborns; the Indian height disadvantage emerges with the second child and then increases with birth order. This pattern persists when we compare height between siblings, and also holds for health inputs such as vaccinations. Three patterns in the data indicate that India's culture of eldest son preference plays a key role in explaining the steeper birth order gradient among Indian children and, consequently, the overall height deficit. First, the Indian firstborn height advantage only exists for sons. Second, an Indian son with an older sibling is taller than his African counterpart if and only if he is the eldest son. Third, the India-Africa height deficit is largest for daughters with no older brothers, which reflects that fact that their families are those most likely to exceed their desired fertility in order to have a son.

Sheely, Ryan. 2015. “Mobilization, Participatory Planning Institutions, and Elite Capture: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Rural Kenya.” World Development, March 2015 67. Publisher's Version
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.

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.

Yanagizawa-Drott, David, and Filipe Campante. 2015. “Does Religion Affect Economic Growth and Happiness? Evidence from Ramadan.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 130 (2): 615-658. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We study the economic effects of religious practices in the context of the observance of Ramadan fasting, one of the central tenets of Islam. To establish causality, we exploit variation in the length of daily fasting due to the interaction between the rotating Islamic calendar and a country’s latitude. We report two key, quantitatively meaningful results: (i) longer Ramadan fasting has a negative effect on output growth in Muslim countries, and (ii) it increases subjective well-being among Muslims. We find evidence that these patterns are consistent with a standard club good explanation for the emergence of costly religious practices: increased strictness of fasting screens out the less committed members, while the more committed respond with an increase in their relative levels of participation. together, our results underscore that religious practices can affect individual  behavior and beliefs in ways that have negative implications for economic performance, but that nevertheless increase subjective well-being among followers.

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”. 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
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)