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.
AbstractUnder 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.
AbstractWelfare programs in developing countries reach more people every day, potentially changing behavior and political landscapes in the long term. How do they affect an unstudied outcome, namely recipients' non-electoral political behavior? In these contexts, citizens often interact with governments to access resources, suggesting that receiving benefits may decrease participation. Yet research on "policy feedback" in the US shows that resources from benefits increase recipients’ capacity for action and motivate them to protect these resources. I study the effects of a common policy, subsidizing homeownership, on demand-making in Mumbai, India. A natural experiment of multiple housing lotteries shows that winning increases reported demand-making and knowledge about local politics, even among those who rent out the homes. Mechanisms may include changes in attitudes and an increased interest in improving communities. This study shows that welfare policies can facilitate collective demand-making activity among groups of beneficiaries.
AbstractGovernments in countries at all income levels subsidize homeownership and thereby transfer wealth to middle-class households. I use subsidized housing lotteries in Mumbai to identify the human capital effects of such a transfer and find that 3-5 years later, winners are more educated than non-winners, with effects concentrated among school-age youth. The intervention also increases rates of employment, particularly among older youth who have had the chance to complete their education. Effects are not likely to be driven by relocation, as winners live in neighborhoods with poorer school quality and lower rates of literacy and employment than non-winners.
“From public service access to service quality: The distributive politics of piped water in Bangalore” (under review) with Alison Post, Megan Otsuka, Francesc Pardo-Bosch, and Isha Ray
AbstractInfrastructure 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