Research in Progress
"Internet Access, Social Media, and the Behavior of Politicians: evidence from Brazil", with Filipe Campante, Claudio Ferraz and Pedro Souza.
Recent years have witnessed the remarkable diffusion of social media, such as Facebook, in tandem with the spread of the cell phones that have become the key tool for access to those media. We ask whether this has affected the accountability of politicians, in a context where the coverage of local politicians by traditional media is negligible. Us- ing data on the spread of 3G cell phone networks across municipalities in Brazil, we implement a triple-differences strategy to show that legislators respond when municipalities that are part of their electoral base obtain access to the 3G technology. The reaction takes place both in their social media activity – they increase the number of Facebook mentions to the municipality – and in their legislative activity – they increase the amount of earmark transfers to the municipality. At the same time, we find evidence of substitution between the two kinds of responses: politicians with weaker social media presence increase Facebook mentions relatively little, but increase earmarks relatively more. We also show that citizens increase their social media interaction with politicians, as measured by Facebook “likes,” “shares,” or “comments.” Taken together, our results suggest that the combination of social media and cell phones can indeed enhance the responsiveness of politicians to their constituents, but also highlights the potential for substitution between online and offline behavior.
"Sleepless in Chennai: the Economic Effects of Sleep Deprivation among the Poor", with Gautam Rao, Frank Schilbach, Heather Schofield and Mattie Toma.