"Can Electronic Procurement Improve Infrastructure Provision? Evidence from Public Works in India and Indonesia", with Sean Lewis-Faupel, Benjamin A. Olken, and Rohini Pande, 2016
American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 8(3): 258-83. (Publisher's Version)
This paper examines whether electronic procurement (e-procurement), which increases access to information and reduces personal interactions with potentially corrupt officials, improves procurement outcomes. We develop unique datasets from India and Indonesia and use variation in adoption of e-procurement within both countries. We find no evidence of reduced prices but do find that e-procurement leads to quality improvements. In India, where we observe quality directly, e-procurement improves road quality, and in Indonesia, e-procurement reduces delays. Regions with e-procurement are more likely to have winners come from outside the region. On net, the results suggest that e-procurement facilitates entry from higher quality contractors.
“Enfranchising Your Own? Experimental Evidence on Bureaucrat Diversity and Election Bias in India”
Revision Submitted: American Economic Review. (Paper)
This paper investigates the effects of bureaucrat diversity on elections in India, using a natural experiment—the random assignment of government officials to teams managing polling stations on election day—together with surveys and experiments conducted with voters and election officers. I demonstrate that changes in the religious and caste composition of officer teams impact voting at the polling station level, shifting coalition vote shares at a magnitude large enough to influence election outcomes. Effects are strongest when officers have greater discretion over the voting process. I also provide evidence suggesting own-group favoritism by election personnel as one relevant mechanism.
"Having it at Hand: How Small Search Frictions Impact Bureaucratic Efficiency", with Eric Dodge, Rohini Pande, and Charity Troyer Moore
Can small search costs that constrain information acquisition by bureaucrats provide a substantive explanation for poor bureaucratic performance in the developing world? In collaboration with the Indian Ministry of Rural Development and the state of Madhya Pradesh, we conducted a field experiment in which a random sample of bureaucrats were given access to an internet and mobile-based management and monitoring platform for wage payments associated with a workfare program. The platform did not make new information available, but rather lowered costs of accessing information about the status of wage bills and officers who needed to take action. Our experiment also randomly varied which level of the administrative hierarchy had access to the e-platform. We find that lower costs of information acquisition reduce payment processing time by up to 21 percent. Using detailed usage data, we document that both access to information and managerial oversight matter. Specifically, we observe reduced payment delays only when search costs are reduced at both the intermediate and senior management levels. Further, usage rates at the intermediate management level are much higher when senior management also has access to the e-platform.
“Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Impacts of Open Meetings in State Legislatures”
This paper studies the effects of increased de jure transparency of representative actions in the legislative setting. I exploit variation in the timing of enactment across U.S. states of open meetings laws which ostensibly increase the public availability of information on legislator behavior to consider impacts on: bill introduction and enactment, state expenditure, confidence in government, and candidate and voter behavior in state elections. As recent work shows that increased geographic remoteness of capital cities in U.S. states is strongly associated with reduced accountability and worse government performance, I also investigate how the impacts of open meetings vary with state capital isolation. Open meetings increase spending on public goods and heighten confidence in state government on average. Heterogeneous impacts on incumbent vote share suggest that at both low and high levels of initial accountability, open meetings provide citizens with additional information that influences voting.
“Texting Bad Politicians Out of Office”, with Siddharth George and Sarika Gupta
"Building a Tax Base: Experimental Evidence from New Delhi", with Wendy Wong