Working papers:

Corruption and slow public service delivery are common problems in low- and middle-income countries. Can better management information systems improve delivery speed? Does improving the delivery speed reduce corruption? In a large-scale experiment 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. A model where bureaucrats' reputational concerns constrain bribes can explain the results. When positive performance feedback improves bureaucrats' reputations, the 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)

Disagreements over business deals, land boundaries, and loan non-repayments are common impediments to economic transactions. To resolve such disputes, people in low-income countries are often forced to choose between costly and slow formal courts, or informal Dispute Resolution Mechanisms (DRMs) that lack state-sanctioned enforcement powers. Can a decentralized judicial institution run by locally elected officials increase access to justice by combining the best aspects of formal and informal dispute resolution? Can such an institution decrease the burden on higher-level courts and increase investment and growth? We evaluate the effects of the government introducing Village Courts (VCs) in rural Bangladesh using a large-scale randomized controlled trial. The introduction of VCs more than doubled the share of disputes resolved in state-sanctioned courts, but the ubiquitous informal institution called shalish remains the most commonly used DRM. There is some substitution from shalish to VC, but the district court congestion, economic activities, and social dynamics remain unaffected. The elected leaders in charge of implementing VCs are also involved in settling shalish cases, and the potential of VCs is limited by the constraints on their time. Without further investment in state capacity, the VC cannot supplant the even more decentralized shalish system.

Under what circumstances does corruption cause inefficiencies, and when are bribes merely a transfer? I propose a modified monopoly price discrimination model showing how corruption may lead to increased administrative burden in firm-government interactions. The model highlights the importance of the information setting of the interaction. When the government official knows the firms' Willingness-To-Pay (WTP) to avoid administrative burden, the interaction will have a Pareto efficient level of administrative burden with perfect price (i.e bribe) discrimination. Without information about the firms' WTP, the government official use red tape to extract higher more from those with higher WTP. To test the model’s prediction, I use 16 years of Enterprise Survey data from 151 countries containing 170,571 government-firm interactions. Consistent with the model's predictions I find that corruption leads to increased administrative burden when government officials have less information about the firm's WTP and that the effect is larger for firms with a low WTP. This has several policy implications for where to focus anti-corruption efforts and how to reduce administrative burden.

Selected Works in Progress:

Registered Report: Adoption, Use, and Effects of Air Purifiers in Households, with Ashfaqul Chowdhury, Teevrat Garg, and Maulik Jagnani

Accepted based on pre-results review, Journal of Development Economics

Poor air quality is a pressing environmental health concern in many low-income countries, especially in South Asia, where stringent environmental laws coexist with weak regulatory institutions and inconsistent enforcement. In such a context, understanding the role of private defensive investments like air purifiers in households and workplaces is paramount. However, we know extremely little about the adoption, use, and impact of air purifiers. To fill this void, we will conduct a randomized control trial with households in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The project will answer four research questions: (i) What are the benefits of air purifier use? (ii) Does correcting misperceptions about air pollution severity increase the demand for and use of air purifiers? (iii) Does subsidizing electricity costs or altering the frequency of electricity compensation increase air purifier use? (iv) Do investments in air purifiers diminish households’ engagement in efforts to reduce ambient air pollution?

Leveraging Technology to Reduce the Harms of Air Pollution in Bangladesh, with Doreen Boyd, Ro’ee Levy, and Sumil Thakrar

Causes and Consequences of Internet Shutdowns, with Aarushi Kalra and Ro'ee Levy

What Determines the Pollution-Income Relationship? Abatement Technology, Pollution Technology, and Bounded Utility, with Dorothy Ting

Other Publications:

Reproducibility in Management Science. Management Science (forthcoming). by Miloš Fišar, Ben Greiner, Christoph Huber, Elena Katok, Ali I. Ozkes, and the Management Science Reproducibility Collaboration. Note: Member of the Management Science Reproducibility Collaboration