Papers under Revision

  1. The Welfare Cost of Lawlessness: Evidence from Somali Piracyjoint with Tim Besley and Hannes-Felix Mueller, Forthcoming in the Journal of the European Economics Association. Online Appendix for Estimating the Welfare Cost of Somali Piracy
  2. Group Lending Without Joint Liabilityjoint with Jon de Quidt and Maitreesh Ghatak, Revise and Resubmit at the Journal of Development Economics.
  3. Market Structure and Borrower Welfare in Microfinancejoint with Jon de Quidt and Maitreesh Ghatak.


Working Papers

Can Workfare Programs Moderate Violence? Evidence From India, EOPP Working Paper  Number 53, 2014.

Abstract: This paper seeks to answer the question, whether the Indian National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme, designed as social insurance, can mitigate the effect of income shocks on insurgent violence in India and thus affect the dynamics of violence. The paper proceeds by establishing that the violence processes are functions of income or proxies of income. Exploiting variation within-district over time from a newly created conflict dataset covering the whole of India, I show that the introduction of NREGA has reduced the rainfall dependency of conflict.  This finding is robust to many ways of studying the data. I then explore whether this finding can be reconciled with the dynamics of NREGA take-up and the agricultural labour market. I show that NREGA take-up is highly rainfall-dependant; furthermore, I establish that NREGA functions as a stabiliser to agricultural wages, in light of rainfall shocks.

Download the paper here

Fracking Growth, CEP Working Paper 1278, 2014.

Abstract: This paper estimates the effect of the shale oil and gas boom in  the United States on local economic outcomes. The main source of exogenous variation to be explored is the location of previously unexplored shale deposits. These have become technologically recoverable through the use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. I use this to estimate the localised effects from resource extraction. A key observation is that, despite rising labour costs, there is no Dutch disease contraction in the tradable goods sector, while the non-tradable goods sector contracts. I reconcile this finding by providing evidence that the resource boom may give rise to local comparative advantage, through locally lower energy cost. This allows a clean separation of the energy price effect distinct from the local resource extraction effects.

Download the paper here, .

Abstract:  This paper answers the question whether extreme power rationing can induce changes in human fertility and thus, generate “mini baby booms”. We study a period of extensive power rationing in Colombia that lasted for most of 1992 and see whether this has increased births in the subsequent year, exploiting variation from a newly constructed measure of the the extent of power rationing. We find that power rationing increased the probability that a mother had a baby by 4 percent and establish that this effect is permanent as mothers who had a black out baby were not able to adjust their total long-run fertility. Exploiting this variation, we show that women who had a black-out baby find themselves in worse socio-economic conditions more than a decade later, highlighting potential social costs of unplanned motherhood.

Draft available here.

Hot Heads: Temperature, Income Shocks and Crime in India

joint with Jonathan Colmer and Benjamin Guin

Abstract: This paper tries to disentangle the direct and indirect effects of weather varia- tion on crime in India. Evidence from behavioural psychology suggests that weather shocks, in particular temperature variation, may have a direct effect on criminal be- haviour, especially for violent crimes. On the other hand, the economics literature has widely emphasised the role of economic shocks in affecting crime. We attempt to separate these effects by examining variation across crimes, seasonal variation related to agricultural production, rural vs. urban differences and whether temperature ef- fects are mitigated in states with strict prohibition laws. We find that an increase in the number of days in which temperature rises above 30 C (86 F) is associated with an increase in the number of murders and rapes, with no effect on other economic- based crimes. Furthermore, an increase in the number of days in which individuals are exposed to very hot temperatures, above 34 C (93.2 F) is associated with a reduction in these crimes. Finally, we observe that increased rainfall is associated with reductions in property based and economic crimes in support of a consumption smoothing channel.

Draft coming soon.

Developing a Micro-Level Conflict Data Set for South Asia

Abstract: This paper describes the use of sophisticated natural language processing tools to develop a district-level conflict dataset for South Asia, with a particular focus on India. The methodology used requires only a limited amount of work of hand-coding data. As the procedure is objective, erroneous coding of data by researchers can be avoided or at least limited, using such automation techniques. The ideal combination would leverage human ability to discover nuances in textual notions, with the scalability and objectivity of automated procedures. I then show how the dataset correlates with the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), another major conflict database measuring terrorist or insurgency violence. I highlight that there appear to be systematic differences between these two datasets. These differences likely arise from the primary data sources that feed into the GTD.

Microfinance, Market Structure, and Borrower Welfare: Regulatory Lessons from the Indian Crisis

joint with Jon de Quidt and Maitreesh Ghatak.

Abstract: In this article we review some of the open questions highlighted by the recent, Indian microfinance crisis. We draw out some of the key lessons learned about, the microfinance industry,  both in India and more broadly,  and their implications for borrowers. We illustrate the interplay of regulation,  market structure, and borrower welfare by surveying recent contributions that reflect the renewed, academic interest in microfinance. By putting this research into perspective with, the crisis,  we point out potentially important avenues for further research.

Preliminary draft available here.