The Psychosocial Value of Employment: Evidence from a Refugee Camp

(with Erin Kelley, Reshmaan Hussam, and Fatima Tuz Zahra)

Abstract: Employment may be an important source of wellbeing beyond its role as a source of income. This paper presents a causal estimate of the psychosocial value of employment in refugee camps in Bangladesh. We engage 745 individuals in a field experiment with three arms: a control arm, a weekly cash arm, and an employment arm of equal value. We find that employment generates improvements in psychosocial wellbeing substantially larger than cash alone. Consistent with these findings, 66% of those in our work treatment are willing to forego cash payments to instead work for free.

American Economic Review (2022), 112(11)

Adapting to Floods with Guaranteed Credit: Evidence from Bangladesh

Abstract: Climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, with low-income countries being disproportionately impacted. However, these countries often face market frictions that hinder their ability to adopt effective adaptation strategies. In this paper, I explore the role of credit market failures in limiting adaptation. To achieve this, I collaborate with a large micro-finance institution and offer a randomly selected group of farmers access to guaranteed credit through an Emergency Loan following a negative climate shock. I document three key results. First, farmers who have access to the emergency loan make less costly adaptation choices and are less severely affected when a flood occurs. Secondly, I find no evidence of adverse spillover effects on households that did not receive the Emergency Loan. Finally, I demonstrate that providing the Emergency Loan is profitable for the micro-finance institution, making it a viable tool for the private sector to employ in similar circumstances.

Econometrica (2024), 92(2)

Working Papers

Monitoring in Target Contracts: Theory and Experiment in Kenyan Public Transit

(with Erin Kelley and David Schönholzer)

Abstract: This paper examines whether moral hazard is a meaningful barrier to firm productivity and growth in low-income countries. We introduce monitoring devices into commuter minibuses in Kenya and randomize which minibus owners have access to the data using a novel mobile app. We find that treated vehicle owners modify the terms of the contract to induce higher effort and lower risk-taking from their drivers, resulting in lower firm costs, higher firm productivity, and firm expansion. These results suggest that moral hazard constrains firm productivity, and the proliferation of monitoring technologies could represent a boon for small firms in low-income countries.

Accepted American Economic Review

Customer Discrimination in the Workplace: Evidence from Online Sales

(with Erin Kelley, Matthew Pecenco, and Edward Rubin)

Abstract: Many workers are evaluated on their ability to engage with customers. We measure the impact of gender-based customer discrimination on the productivity of online sales agents in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using a novel framework that randomly varies the gender of names presented to customers without changing worker behavior, we find the assign- ment of a female-sounding name leads to 50 percent fewer purchases. Customers also lag in responding, are less expressive, and avoid discussing purchases. We show similar results for customers around the world and across workers. Removing customer bias, we find women would be more productive than their male co-workers.

Revision Requested Journal of Labor Economics

Long-range forecasts as climate adaptation: Experimental evidence from developing-country agriculture

(with Fiona Burlig, Amir Jina, Erin Kelley, and Harshil Sahai)

Abstract: Climate change is making weather more variable, exacerbating agricultural risk in poor coun- tries. Increasingly, risk-averse farmers are unable to tailor their planting decisions to the coming season, and underinvest in profitable inputs. Accurate, long-range forecasts enable farmers to optimize for the growing season ahead. We experimentally evaluate monsoon onset forecasts in India, randomizing 250 villages into control; a forecast group receiving information well in advance of onset; and an index insurance group which serves as a benchmark. Forecast farmers update their beliefs and their behavior accordingly: farmers who receive “bad news” relative to their priors substantially reduce land under cultivation and certain input expenditures, while those receiving “good news” significantly increase input expenditures. The forecast also changes crop choice, as farmers tailor their investments. These changes in ex ante investments lead to meaningful changes in ex post outcomes. Machine learning-based heterogeneity shows that the least well-off farmers experience the largest increase in agricultural profits from the forecast. In contrast to the forecast, insurance, which provides no information about the coming season, increases investments but does not change crops. Our results demonstrate that forecasts are a promising tool for climate adaptation.

Pre-analysis plan accepted via pre-results review at Journal of Development Economics

Competitive Job Seekers: When Sharing Less Leaves Firms at a Loss

(with Gaurav Chiplunkar and Erin Kelley)

Abstract: We use a randomized control trial to study how young job-seekers share informa- tion about jobs within their social network, and its implications for firms. When competition for a job is made salient, we find that job-seekers are: (i) less likely to share information about the job with their peers; and (ii) choose to share it with fewer higher ability peers. This lowers the size and quality of the applicants a firm sees and the hires they make. These results suggest that firms who rely heavily on social networks to disseminate information about jobs may see lower quality applicants than they expected for positions that are deemed more competitive.

The Value of Safe Driving: Evidence from Kenya’s Public Transport Sector

(with Erin Kelley and David Schoenholzer)

Abstract Road traffic accidents in poorly regulated public transit is a leading cause of death in low- and middle-income countries. We study how providing information about bus safety to passengers affects the demand and supply of safer public transit. We collect high-frequency measures of safe driving for five firms operating on one of the busiest long-range routes in Kenya, using a newly developed tracking device. We randomize private information to passengers about which firm is the safest choice. We then provide a public signal to both passengers and firms that buses are now being tracked. Treated passengers do not respond to private information at first, but after the introduction of the public signal they substitute strongly towards the safe firm, and some firms provide safer services. We rationalize these effects in a model of heterogeneous firms responding strategically to higher demand for safety due to the public signal. We derive welfare estimates of alternative equilibria, which imply that the welfare effects of information interventions crucially depend on the nature of the market equilibrium.

Works in Progress

  • Home: Experimental Evidence on Repatriation Preferences of Refugees (with Erin Kelley and Reshmaan Hussam)

  • Flight Risk or Reward? Returns to Credit Between Refugees and Locals (with Erin Kelley and Reshmaan Hussam)

  • The Household at Work: A Field Experiment in the Rohingya Refugee Camps (with Erin Kelley and Reshmaan Hussam)

  • Online Marketplaces and Reducing Barriers for Small Firms (with Erin Kelley, Matthew Pecenco)

Policy/Media Documents

Which jobs are lost during a lockdown? Evidence from vacancy postings in India

(with Gaurav Chiplunkar and Erin Kelley)

Abstract: We rely on real-time data from India’s second largest job portal to study how COVID-19 (and the associated lockdown measures) impacted the Indian labor market. Detailed firm-level vacancy postings on location, industries, occupations and job characteristics allow us to document three facts that suggest a dramatic contraction in hiring, especially for young, less-educated and female job-seekers. First, we observe a substantial decline in the total number of new vacancies posted and the number of firms that post at least one job. Second, we see an increase in jobs that can be completed from home and fewer jobs in occupations that can be easily automated. Finally, we find evidence that certain job-seekers are more affected than others, as employers post fewer entry-level jobs, require higher levels of experience and education, and advertise fewer jobs in female-dominated occupations.