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)
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.
“Welfare programs and local political participation: the effects of affordable housing in Mumbai”) (under review)
How do welfare programs affect beneficiaries' local political activity in developing countries? Many welfare programs are implemented by local governments and entail benefits that are continuously delivered to or used by citizens over time. I argue that recipients are therefore motivated to participate in local politics to protect the quality of benefits. I support the argument with a natural experiment consisting of interviews of 834 applicants of subsidized home price lotteries in Mumbai, India. In this case, I predict that beneficiaries will protect their housing welfare benefits by demanding improvements to the neighborhoods in which lottery apartments are located. 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 neighborhoods. The study highlights both the electoral and non-electoral political effects of programmatic policies and causes of civic participation among diverse groups.
“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)
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.
“Transferring wealth: the welfare effects of an affordable housing program in Mumbai.”
This paper uses original survey data from a housing lottery in Mumbai to examine the household-level effects of the subsidized sale of housing to lower-middle class families 3-5 years after program implementation. The intervention consists of a wealth transfer realized, for some, through a stream of housing benefits. Beneficiaries can also rent out or eventually sell the housing to receive in-kind or lump sum benefits. The program leads individuals to express greater optimism about the future and increases educational attainment, particularly at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Effects on educational attainment occur in spite of the fact that winners live in areas with poorer school quality and lower levels of literacy, and also translate into higher rates of employment. This is among the first studies of the effects of the subsidized sale of an asset in a developing country.