Research in progress
“Strengthening the Midwife Service Scheme with Community Focused Interventions: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Field Trial in Nigeria” (Joint with Martina Bjorkman and Vandana Sharma)
Northern Nigeria is one of the highest maternal-mortality regions in the world, and it is characterized by stubbornly low rates of facility births and skilled attendance at birth despite the recent widespread deployment of midwives to rural health centers. This randomized controlled trial, financed by the Mac Arthur foundation and currently in the field, aims evaluate the impact of three community-based interventions aimed at providing information about and increasing the acceptability of facility-based births: a community health worker program, the provision of a safe birth kit, and community engagement activities targeted at male opinion leaders. The key research hypothesis of interest is that information delivered by a culturally acceptable messenger will induce parents to optimize care decisions by considering the long-term costs of home deliveries for both the mother and child. Outcomes will be measured in a baseline and endline survey, and via ongoing surveillance of vital events for two years employing a RapidSMS monitoring system.
“Grain into Gold? The Impact of Shocks to Agricultural Income in Rural China”
Despite a longstanding debate about the relationship between agricultural and industrial development, a paucity of microeconomic evidence has largely rendered well-identified analyses of the impact of increases in agricultural income on growth in other sectors impossible. Between 1990 and 2005, policymakers in China systematically raised the prices paid to rural households for mandatory grain quota sales to the state. This paper exploits the interaction between climatic variation correlated with the size of the grain quota and the variation in quota price over time to identify an exogenously shifting component of quota revenue, and to estimate the impact of shifts in quota revenue on household economic activities. The results indicate that higher agricultural income leads to a decrease in agricultural investment and increased investment in household industrial enterprises and employment outside the household, as well as substantial increases in consumption of non-staple goods and borrowing. These estimates are consistent with the hypothesis that higher rural income in China will yield a shift of capital and labor to non-agricultural sectors.
“Value for Money in Purchasing Votes: A Lab Experiment in the Field” (joint with Rohini Pande)
Vote-buying, in various forms, is rampant in democracies all over the world. However, empirical data on the operation of vote-buying and its implications for democratic decision-making remains limited. The objective of this project is to analyze the behavior of voters under a regime of vote-buying in a lab experiment implemented in the Harvard Decision Sciences Laboratory and in the field in Kenya and India. A laboratory experiment provides a controlled environment allowing for the testing of basic hypotheses about voters' response to the offer of direct monetary incentives for their votes, measured in their response in subsequent rounds of voting and their willingness to employ their vote to censure an incumbent politician for his or her conduct. The hypothesis to be tested is that voters who receive a payment from politicians are less likely to use their votes as a mechanism of retrospective accountability, even when the vote is unverifiable. Additional analysis will test whether the impact of vote-buying varies according to the framing of the vote payment and the size of the public good open to expropriation by the politician.