Working Papers

Meritocracy in a Bureaucracy [latest version]

Abstract: How do decision makers use information about workers' ability to make promotion decisions in a Weberian bureaucracy with no explicit incentives? I examine discretionary promotions of junior Pakistan Administrative Services (PAS) bureaucrats by their senior officials. I compile unique data on the abilities of junior officers, including both publicly available recruitment exam rank and information on job performance that is only privately available to senior officials. Results show that seniors use both public and private information meritocratically in making fast-track promotions. Despite having no explicit incentives, seniors are meritocratic when choosing and promoting juniors to other teams. This is consistent with implicit incentives aligning incentives.

Corruption as informal fiscal policy [latest version]

(with Clement Minaudier (University of Vienna) and Sandip Sukhtankar (UVA)) 

Abstract: Persistent corruption and limited fiscal capacity often go hand-in-hand. We explore one reason why governments may fail to address both issues: the possibility that corruption supports an informal, parallel fiscal system. We document that in settings with low state capacity and resources, governments implicitly expect lower-level officials to extract rents from citizens in order to fund the delivery of public goods and services. Using survey data and government accounts in Pakistan and India, we show that public officials use personal funds to complement official funding for public services, and that part of these funds come from bribes. We propose a model of bureaucratic agency to explore when governments benefit from sustaining such systems and investigate welfare implications. Informal fiscal systems are more likely to arise when bureaucrats face strong incentives to provide public services, the costs of monitoring corruption are high, and the government relies on the support of voters less affected by corruption.

Screen Now, Save Later? The Trade-Off between Administrative Ordeals and Fraud [latest version]

(with Daniel Gingerich (UVA) and Sandip Sukhtankar (UVA))

Abstract: Screening requirements are common features of fraud and corruption mitigation efforts around the world. Yet imposing these requirements involves trade-offs between higher administrative costs, delayed benefits, and exclusion of genuine beneficiaries on one hand and lower fraud on the other. We examine these trade-offs in one of the largest economic relief programs in US history: The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Employing a database that includes nearly 11.5 million PPP loans, we assess the impact of  screening by exploiting temporal variation in the documentation standards applied to loan applications for loans of different values. We find that  screening significantly reduced the incidence and magnitude of various measures of loan irregularities that are indicative of fraud. Moreover, our analysis reveals that a subset of borrowers with a checkered history strategically reduced their loan application amounts in order to avoid being subjected to  screening. Borrowers without a checkered history engaged in this behavior at a much lower rate, implying that the documentation requirement reduced fraud without imposing an undue administrative burden on legitimate firms. All told, our estimates imply that  screening led to a $737 million reduction in losses due to fraud.

Gender and choice over co-workers: Experimental evidence [latest version] 

(with Clement Minaudier (University of Vienna), Brais Álvarez Pereira (Universidade NOVA SBE) and Shamyla Chaudry (Lahore School of Economics))

Abstract: We study whether choice over co-workers matters for performance in gender-diverse teams. We carried out a lab-in-the-field experiment where students were randomly assigned co-workers to help them perform on tests. Co-worker allocation was randomized on two dimensions: (1) gender and (2) student preference for working with that co-worker at baseline. We find that assigning a randomly-selected male co-worker reduces the performance of female students (12% of the average score) relative to working alone, while a preferred male co-worker has a positive yet statistically insignificant effect on performance (6% of the average score). The effects are heterogeneous across the gender stereotype of the questions and materialize even though the two types of male co-workers have the same average ability. Our results show that choice matters for the performance of male students too, but only in gender-stereotypical categories. We also find that female students were significantly less likely to access additional information in the presence of randomly-chosen male co-workers whereas male students were more likely to access it. This suggests that the mechanisms affecting collaboration are different for men and women. 

Selected Work in Progress

Spillovers in State Capacity Formation (with Clement Minaudier (University of Vienna))


Diversity in small or large groups? Experimental Evidence (with Brais Álvarez Pereira (Universidade NOVA SBE) and Alexia Delfino (Bocconi University))

Gender and advice in teams (with Alexia Delfino (Bocconi University) and Shamyla Chaudry (Lahore School of Econ)


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, Accountant General Office, Government of Punjab))

Resting papers

Charitable donations and violence: Evidence from Pakistan 

Abstract: 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]