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.

Forthcoming American Economic Review

Working Papers

Adapting to Floods with Guaranteed Credit: Evidence from Bangladesh

Abstract: As the effects of climate change worsen for households in low-income countries, policy solutions need to be developed at-scale. I estimate the impact of a product that helps households cope with floods, while overcoming existing market frictions that have limited the use of other adaptation measures. I find that a loan product that guarantees credit access to agricultural households following a flood increases their welfare through two channels: an ex-ante insurance effect, whereby households increase investments in risky but profitable production; and an ex-post effect, whereby households use the loan to smooth consumption. Repayment is high and the loan is profitable for the lender – demonstrating that guaranteed credit is a sustainable tool that institutions can supply to households vulnerable to climate shocks.

Revision Requested Econometrica

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.

Revision Requested American Economic Review

Customer Discrimination in the Workplace: Evidence from Online Sales

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

Abstract: Discrimination by customers who prefer to interact with certain types of workers can affect worker productivity. In this paper, we measure the impact of gender-based customer discrimination on the productivity of online sales agents in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using a daily randomization design that varies the gender of names presented to cus- tomers while holding other characteristics fixed, we find the assignment of a female-sounding name leads to significantly fewer purchases by customers. The results appear to be driven by relatively lower interest in engaging with female workers. We do not find evidence of differential bargaining or harassment.

Pre-Analysis Plan – The value of forecasts: Experimental evidence from developing-country agriculture

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

Abstract: Climate risk is a key driver of low agricultural productivity in poor countries. We use a cluster-randomized trial to evaluate a novel risk-mitigation approach: long-range forecasts that provide information about the onset of the Indian summer monsoon well in advance of its arrival. In contrast to traditional ex post risk coping approaches, this novel ex ante technology provides accurate information significantly before the monsoon’s arrival, enabling farmers to alter major up front input decisions. Moreover, forecasts have the potential to be disseminated cheaply, even at scale. We assign 250 villages to one of three groups: a control group; a group that receives an opportunity to purchase the forecast; and a group that is offered insurance. This design allows us to investigate farmers’ willingness-to-pay for forecasts; how forecasts affect farmer beliefs, up-front investments, and welfare; and how these effects compare to the canonical ex post loss mitigation tool: index insurance.

Accepted via pre-results review at Journal of Development Economics

Works in Progress

  • The Value of Safe Driving: Evidence from Kenya’s Public Transport Sector (with Erin Kelley and David Schoenholzer)

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

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

  • Employment, Gender Identity, and Domestic Violence: A Field Experiment in a Refugee Camp (with Erin Kelley and Reshmaan Hussam)

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

  • Soft Skills, Job Information, and Social Networks (with Gaurav Chiplunkar and Erin Kelley)

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.