Working papers:

Government bureaucracies in low- and middle-income countries often suffer from both corruption and slow public-service delivery. Can an information system – providing information about delays to the responsible bureaucrats and their supervisors – improve delivery speed? Paying bribes for faster service delivery is common, but does improving the average delivery speed reduce bribes? To answer these questions, I conduct a large-scale field experiment over 16 months with the Bangladesh Civil Service. I send monthly scorecards measuring delays in service delivery to government officials and their supervisors. The scorecards increase on-time service delivery by 11% but do not reduce bribes. Instead, the scorecards increase bribes for high-performing bureaucrats. The results are inconsistent with a causal link between the average speed of service delivery and corruption, and they contradict several existing theories of this relationship. I propose a model where bureaucrats' reputational concerns or shame constrain corruption. When bureaucrats' reputations improve through positive performance feedback, this constraint is relaxed, and bribes increase.

Media coverage: VoxDev, JPAL Policy Breif

Social movements are associated with large societal changes, but evidence on their causal effects is limited. We study the effect of the MeToo movement on a high-stakes decision—reporting a sexual crime to the police. We construct a new dataset of sexual and non-sexual crimes reported in 30 OECD countries, covering 88% of the OECD population. We analyze the effect of the MeToo movement by employing a triple-difference strategy over time, across countries, and between crime types. The movement increased reporting of sexual crimes by 10% during its first six months. The effect is persistent and lasts at least 15 months. Because we find a strong effect on reporting before any major changes to laws or policy took place, we attribute the effect to a change in social norms or information. Using more detailed US data, we show that the movement also increased arrests for sexual crimes in the long run. In contrast to a common criticism of the movement, we do not find evidence for large differences in the effect across racial and socioeconomic groups. Our results suggest that social movements can rapidly change high-stakes personal decisions.

Media coverage: Vox, PBS, Straights Times, Dagens Nyheter (Swedish), Politiken (Danish)

Ongoing projects:

Can New Judicial Institutions Spur Development? Experimental Evidence from Village Courts in Bangladesh (with Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak)

Using a large-scale field experiment in Bangladesh we estimate the effects on a new justice institution called "Village Courts" on a range of direct and downstream outcomes. We will measure the effect of Village Courts on how disputes are resolved, the prevalence of dispute and the total cost of having a dispute resolved. We will also test if these changes in dispute resolution can spur growth in economic activities where contract enforcement is particularly important.