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Working Papers

In Self Interest? Meritocratic Promotions in a Bureaucracy through Discretion of Seniors [latest version here]

Abstract: Most bureaucracies today are rule-based. This is a result of a powerful intellectual tradition that argues that allowing discretion in decision making could lead to favoritism and collusion, with substantial costs to the organization. Using a newly digitized civil servant-month dataset from 1983-2013, this paper studies one public sector bureaucracy and presents novel evidence that when senior bureaucrats have discretion to promote juniors, they do so meritocratically. Results show that self-interest is one mechanism behind meritocracy. Since who works in the senior bureaucrat's team has a direct bearing on the senior's own performance, seniors with more discretion are more likely to pull high merit junior bureaucrats into their own team and promote them, while the effect reverses for low merit juniors. The setting offers a unique opportunity to test whether promotions are meritocratic, not just on observables, but on private information of the senior. Results show that seniors can decipher not just hidden lemons from the star performers but also hidden gems from the bottom of the performance distribution. These results challenge the conventional notions of an ideal bureaucracy being rule-based.

Should diversity be introduced in large or small groups? Evidence from lab in the field (with Brais Álvarez Pereira (University of Seville))

[latest version here]

Abstract: In this paper we analyse the relationship between group size and skills diversity on performance of workers. We first explore this link theoretically in a model with knowledge spillovers in production. The main prediction from the model is that the size of the group in which diversity is introduced matters. Having a diverse group-member increases performance of workers in a large group more than in a small one. We test this hypothesis in a lab in Guinea-Bissau with Nursing and Economics students. Students solve a test both individually and in homogeneous and heterogeneous groups of different sizes. The questions on the test are such that there is complementarity of skills required from Economics and Nursing disciplines to answer it. We study the outcomes of Nursing students that are randomly allocated to large and small groups. The Economics student provide a source of exogenous variation in skills diversity in these groups of different sizes of nursing students. We find that the nurses with an economist colleague in a large group perform 4.3 times higher than those in a small group. Our findings suggest that group size plays a central role in determining how skills diversity affects performance of workers.

Charitable donations and violence: Evidence from Pakistan (New draft coming soon)

This paper suggests a new channel of violence: the charitable donations channel. I exploit the rules of religious donations coupled with variations in the international price of gold/silver to arrive at a source of exogenous variation for donations. Using district-year level data on average household donations and terrorist attacks in Pakistan for the years 2001-2013, I find that donations increase the probability of a terrorist attack by 79% and the number of terrorist attacks by 30. All the effect of donations appears to work through an increase in suicide attacks as a specific terrorism tactic. All other tactics appear unaffected. 

  • Based on the MRes paper:  The Economic Causes of Terror: Evidence from Rainfall Variation and Terrorist Attacks in Pakistan [click here]

Work in Progress

Automation a panacea? Evidence from automation of land records in Punjab, Pakistan [click here for the abstract]

Efficiency of discretionary allocations: Evidence from PAS bureaucracy in Pakistan (with Gaurab Aryal (UVA), Clement Minaudier (University of Vienna) and Zahid Habib Bhutta (Additional Accountant General, AGP))

Norms of corruption: Evidence from the Indian police (with Daniel Gingerich (UVA), Vineet Kapoor (UVA) and Sandip Sukhtankar (UVA))

Why innovation happens in the public sector? The case of National Cancer Institute (with Natalie Aviles (UVA))

When bureaucracies cut costs:  Evidence from the World Bank reforms (with Clement Joubert (World Bank))

Who signals more? Asymmetric social signalling by men and women and implications for performance (with Brais Alvarez Pereira (University of Seville) and Shamyla Chaudry (Lahore School of Economics))


Gender Quotas and Performance of Men