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, accepted at Economic Development and Cultural Change)

Working Papers

Digitization and Development: Formalizing Property Rights and its impact on Land and Labor Markets (Revision requested at 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.

Virtual Peers: Improving Teaching Effectiveness with Expert Videos (with Adrienne Lucas, Under Review)

Using an RCT in middle schools in Pakistan, we show brief, expert-led, curriculum-based videos improved teaching eectiveness{student test scores in math and science increased by 0.3 standard deviations on both project and government high-stakes exams, 59% more than the control group, after 4 months of exposure. Students were more likely to pass the government high-stakes exams. Both students and teachers increased their attendance. The brevity of the videos relative to total class time, large effect sizes, and increases in teacher effort indicate classroom teachers became more effective. At a moderate scale, this program is extremely cost-effective.

Sharecropping and Clientelism in Pakistan (Under Review)

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 in Pakistan during a non-democratic regime and household-level panel data, I show that the political transition resulted in higher sharecropping among rural workers engaged in politicians’ clientelist networks. Economic transitions can affect elites ability 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.

The Importance of Experience in Learning about New Farming Practices: Follow-up on a Fertilizer Management Experiment (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 significantly reduce urea usage immediately after the intervention. In the medium-term, there is a positive effect on farmers’ investment in irrigation and non-urea fertilizer, while the effect on urea application practices does not persist. Persistence in farmers’ urea usage is driven by their own experience with the LCC intervention. Farmers pay attention to the change in personal farm output—treatment farmers who had a positive experience, i.e., an increase in own yield in the post-intervention season, are more likely to continue to use the LCC and follow the prescribed urea usage guidelines. Farmer specific characteristics does not fully explain this heterogeneity; instead, unexpected output shocks that affect farmers’ experience plausibly influence the learning process and the sustained usage of the LCC intervention.

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

Screen Time: Tablets with Interactive Textbooks Did Not Improve Learning (withAdrienne Lucas) [Draft Coming Soon]

Using an RCT in grade 6 in Pakistan, we test the effect of providing tablets with interactive textbooks to students on their achievement in math and science. We find no evidence that the intervention improved test scores 3 months after implementation—student test scores were lower relative to the control group in math and not statistically different in science. As we do not find heterogeneity by baseline test score, lack of improvement is unlikely the result of the content being too complicated (or too easy) for students. Lack of integration into the curriculum, lost instructional time in school or allocation of student time away from learning at home may explain the negative effects of tablets on students.

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)