Favoritism and Flooding: Clientelism and Allocation of Irrigation Water. 2019. World Development 114, 175-195. 

`Rule-of-Thumb’ Instructions to Improve Fertilizer Management? Experimental Evidence from Bangladesh (with Mahnaz Islam). Forthcoming. Economic Development and Cultural Change

Working Papers

Digitization and Development: Property Rights Security, and Land and Labor Markets (Revision submitted to Journal of European Economic Association)

I test the land and labor market effects of a property rights reform that computerized rural land records, making digitized records and automated transactions accessible to agricultural landowners and cultivators in Pakistan. Using the staggered roll-out of the program, I find that while the reform does not shift land ownership, landowning households are more likely to rent out land and shift into non-agricultural occupations. At the same time, cultivating households have access to more land, as rented in land and overall farm size per cultivating household increases. I construct measures of farmer level TFP and marginal product of land, and demonstrate evidence of improved allocative efficiency as land is redistributed towards more productive farmers. Aggregate district level production data suggest an improvement in overall cereal yield and a reduction in the dispersion of marginal products of land. The results have implications for both the allocation of land across farmers and the selection of labor into farming, and demonstrate that agricultural land market frictions present a constraint to scale farming and structural change in developing countries.

Engaging Teachers with Technology Increased Achievement, Bypassing Teachers Did Not (with Adrienne Lucas, Under Review)

Using two RCTs in middle schools in Pakistan, we show brief, expert-led, curriculum based videos integrated into the classroom experience improved teaching effectiveness–student test scores in math and science increased by 0.3 standard deviations, 60% more than the control group, after 4 months of exposure. Students and teachers increased their attendance, and students were more likely to pass the government high-stakes exams. In contrast, similar content when provided to students on personal tablets decreased student scores by 0.4SD. The contrast between the two effects shows the importance of engaging existing teachers and the potential for technology to do so.

Tenancy and Clientelism  (Revision requested by Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization)

Elites persist in developing countries despite democratization and development. I demonstrate that landed elites maintain political power through entrenched clientelist networks and economic dependency of rural agricultural tenants and sharecroppers. Exploiting elections during a non-democratic regime and household-level panel data from Pakistan, I show that the political transition resulted in higher sharecropping and private transfers for incumbents’ clients. I argue that sharecropping facilitates patronage and that economic transitions can affect prospects for political capture. I demonstrate that an agricultural technology change that increases the efficiency cost of sharecropping can diminish the persistence of landed elites by reducing the likelihood of landlords’ electoral success in historically landlord-dominated areas.

Improving Fertilizer Management can lead to Medium Term Increase in Complimentary Inputs (with Mahnaz Islam)

Using a randomized controlled trial, we provide rice farmers in Bangladesh with a leaf color chart (LCC) and training that allows farmers to optimize the timing and quantity of nitrogen-based (urea) fertilizer. We follow the treatment and control farmers one season and 2.5 years after the intervention. Farmers change urea application timing and as a result save significantly on urea expenditures in the short run. These short term savings results in investment in complimentary inputs that persist 3 seasons after the intervention. In the medium-term, there is a positive effect on farmers’ investment in non-urea fertilizer and irrigation, and on farm yield, though the effect on urea application practices does not persist. The results suggest that farmers may overuse urea based fertilizer and that improving urea management can allow a reallocation of resources to more productive inputs. The results also indicate that changes in investment and knowledge about fertilizer may be more persistent than changes in behavior or fertilizer management practices.

Quantity Recommendation as a Solution to Imbalanced Fertilizer Use? A Field Experiment in Bangladesh (with Mahnaz Islam and Khandker Wahed Rahman)

We use a field experiment in Bangladesh to test if two types of variety-specific recommendations for quantity of fertilizer—government provided, community-level recommendations and plot-specific recommendations based on individual soil tests—affect fertilizer use, yield, and profits. Treatment farmers do not change their fertilizer application behavior in response to either recommendation, except in the case of TSP, where the recommendations are significantly lower than the baseline average usage, though still positive. Treatment farmers over-react to the recommendations by stopping TSP use after the intervention. In the soil-testing treatment arm farmers also shift their seed choice to varieties for which their baseline fertilizer consumption aligns with the recommendation. Opting out of using TSP, an essential fertilizer, ultimately hurts productivity as farmers in the community-based recommendation arm experience a 6.6% reduction yield. Attention costs may explain the extensive margin but no intensive margin effect in response to the treatments.

“Leveraging Mid-level Supervisors to Improve Public-Sector Service Delivery in Ghana” (with Anne Fitzpatrick and Adrienne Lucas) [Draft Coming Soon]

Link to World Bank Report

Selected Works in Progress

“From Remedial to Grade Level: Secondary School Readiness Program in Odisha, India”  (with Anne Fitzpatrick, Adrienne LucasJason Kerwin, and Khandker Wahed Rahman). Draft under preparation. 

“Another chance for Adolescent Females: Out of school program in Pakistan” (with Anne Fitzpatrick and Adrienne Lucas). Data collection under way. 

Seasonal Dropping-Out: using novel data to study attendance and enrollment in response to shocks. [Abstract]

Other Working Papers 

Conflict Events, Absenteeism and Learning Outcomes in Schools

Consumer Confidence in Conflict Prone Regions (with Hassan Abbass and Ali Choudhary)

Inflation Expectations in a Developing Country Setting (with Hassan Abbas and Ali Choudhary)