I will post working papers here as they become available. I will also post all data and code for publications. Feel free to email to ask about works in progress and to check on the possibility of sharing data for working papers.

Peer-reviewed Publications

Kumar, T., Post, A., and Ray, I. “Flows, Leaks, and Blockages in Informational Interventions: A Field Experimental Study of Bangalore’s Water Sector.” World Development 106: 149-160, 2018.

Data and code

Abstract Under what circumstances might providing citizens with information compensate for unreliable public services? We present a field-experimental evaluation of a program that provided households in Bangalore with advance notification of intermittently provided piped water. The implementers expected that increasing service predictability would reduce wait times for water, reduce costs related to waiting, and improve citizen-state relationships. As many citizens did not receive accurate information, our study detected no impacts on household wait times for water or state-citizen relations. Nonetheless, our study suggests that notifications about water timing reduced stress, especially among low income populations. These findings indicate that greater attention should be paid to both psychological outcomes and the information production and dissemination chain in information interventions. We introduce a causal framework for analyzing “information pipelines” to enable such efforts.

Working Papers

“The feedback effects of welfare programs on local civic action: evidence from affordable housing in Mumbai”

Abstract How do welfare programs affect beneficiaries' political activity to improve local services in middle- and low-income countries? Research on "policy feedback" in the United States shows that resources delivered by programs simultaneously increase recipients' capacity for action and motivate them to protect these resources. In countries that have witnessed a devolution of government responsibilities, civic action at the local-level may be particularly relevant to protecting or improving welfare benefits. I study the effects of a common welfare policy, namely subsidizing homeownership, with a natural experiment consisting of interviews of 834 applicants of subsidized home price lotteries in Mumbai, India. Winning an apartment increases both reported political participation to improve neighborhoods and knowledge about local politics. Winners who choose to rent out the apartments also report taking action to improve lottery apartment neighborhoods. I claim that the main mechanisms for these effects are changes in winners' attitudes and an increased interest in improving local communities. Supported by evidence from existing work, I suggest that other welfare policies that provide beneficiaries with streams of resources may have similar effects. This study highlights the existence of policy feedback effects and the importance of studying local civic action in developing countries.

“The intergenerational effects of subsidizing homeownership: evidence from a program in Mumbai”(under review)

Abstract Are there intergenerational effects of subsidizing homeownership? This wealth transfer to beneficiaries is implemented in many forms across the globe, including mortgage and home-price subsidies. This study uses a natural experiment in the form of a housing lottery in Mumbai and finds that three to five years after implementation, beneficiaries have higher levels of educational attainment than non-beneficiaries, with effects concentrated among school-age youth. Contrary to expectations that unearned income might decrease labor supply, the intervention increases rates of employment, particularly full-time employment among youth. Effects are accompanied by changes in winners' attitudes. They also occur in spite of the fact that winners tend to live in neighborhoods with poorer school quality and lower rates of literacy and employment than non-winners. The paper is among the first to analyze the household-level effects of a widespread policy and presents findings that differ significantly from other studies of wealth shocks.

“From public service access to service quality: The distributive politics of piped water in Bangalore” with Alison Post, Megan Otsuka, Francesc Pardo-Bosch, and Isha Ray (under review)

Abstract Infrastructure services such as water, electricity, and mass transit are central to urban livelihoods. While the political economy literature on local public goods provision has examined patterns of expenditure on and access to infrastructure, variation in service quality for those receiving networked services has received far less attention. In this paper, we examine the distribution of service intermittency, which detracts from service quality and imposes significant welfare costs. We disaggregate intermittency into four dimensions: predictability, frequency, duration, and throughput. We extend arguments from the distributive politics literature to predict the allocation of burdens associated with intermittency among households; we show that this literature has paid insufficient attention to how network structures affect the ability of state or city officials to differentially channel service flows. We illustrate the importance of different dimensions of intermittency and network structure through an analysis of the political geography of piped water supply in Bangalore, India. We find that variation occurs at the “valve area” level, or the smallest units at which water pressure can be distributed, and not at the household-level. Households in low-income valve areas receive more frequent and regular service than those in more affluent ones, contrary to predictions from the distributive politics literature. Our work suggests that the distributive politics of network access differ significantly from those affecting water flows within the network.

“Preferences for Descriptive Representation: Asymmetries Between Hindus and Muslims in India.” with Pradeep Chhibber and Jasjeet Sekhon

Abstract Do minorities have a preference for descriptive representation? We address this question in India, a deeply religious society that has experienced extensive conflict between its Hindu majority and Muslim minority populations. Existing studies of preferences in such settings tend to attribute vote choice to strategic behavior by voters and parties. But because an election is a strategic context, voting outcomes usually reveal not the ideal preferences of voters, but rather their preferences mediated through a political and institutional context. Our research instead seeks to reveal ideal preferences through multiple experiments in diverse strategic settings in India. We find that within and across state lines, Muslims express a preference for co-religious candidates, but Hindus do not. Our findings support the idea that minorities may have a preference for descriptive representation even when it is not strategic to vote for coethnic or co-religious candidates.