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, or loan non-repayment are very common sources of disputes, and courts are congested in developing countries. We evaluate the effects of the government introducing formal "village courts" (VCs) in rural Bangladesh using a randomized controlled trial. VCs were designed to improve dispute resolution and relieve the pressure on congested district courts. We find that VCs are more of a substitute for the ubiquitous informal dispute resolution mechanism (DRM) called shalish. VCs become functional and active in treated areas, but shalish remains the primary preferred DRM in both treatment and control areas. 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. There is some substitution from shalish to VC, but the district court congestion and downstream village economic activities, social dynamics, and political attitudes remain unaffected. The decentralized, diffuse shalish system is a better fit given the aggregate demand for dispute resolution, and it will not be possible for VCs to supplant this informal institution without additional investments in human resources to enhance VC capacity.

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:

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

Effects of Air Purifiers in Households, with Teevrat Garg and Maulik Jagnani

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