Job Market Paper
Abstract Government bureaucracies in low- and middle-income countries often suffer from corruption and slow public service delivery. Can an information system – providing information about delays to the responsible bureaucrats and their supervisors – reduce delays? Paying bribes for faster service delivery is a common form of corruption, but does improving average processing times 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 services delivered on time by 11% but do not reduce bribes. Instead, the scorecards increase bribes for high-performing bureaucrats. These results are inconsistent with existing theories suggesting that speeding up service delivery reduces bribes. I propose a model where bureaucrats' shame or reputational concerns constrain corruption. When bureaucrats' reputation improves through positive performance feedback, this constraint is relaxed, and bribes increase. Overall, my study show that improving information within bureaucracies can change bureaucrats' behavior, even without explicit incentives. However, positive performance feedback can have negative spillovers on bureaucrats' performance across different behaviors.
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.
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.