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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.  This paper studies one particular public sector bureaucracy, the Pakistan Administrative Services (PAS) in Punjab and presents novel evidence that when senior bureaucrats have discretion to promote juniors they do so meritocratically. I create a newly digitized civil servant-month panel data-set (1983-2013) which combines the universe of personnel records of PAS civil servants in Punjab, Pakistan with two key measures of merit of the junior (1) recruitment exam ranking that is publicly observable (2) historical tax collection by juniors that is private information of a particular set of seniors. I exploit two rules within the government to get exogenous variation in both the set of seniors and their power to promote juniors. First, results show that, in the long run, as the promotion power of seniors increase, high merit junior bureaucrats are more likely to be promoted than low merit ones. Second, with increases in the promotion power of seniors they are more likely to pull high merit junior bureaucrats into their own team and promote them, while the effect reverses for low merit juniors. This suggests that self-interest of the person exercising discretion is one mechanism behind meritocracy.  Third, as promotion power of senior increases, those juniors who are observationally good performers but not stars according to private information of the senior, have 3 times lower probability of being promoted than those who are top performers in both dimensions. A similar effect is seen for those that are observationally poor performers. This suggests 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 suggest that there is value from allowing discretion and have wider implications for how we think about the use of subjective judgement in organizations. 

Group size and the use of skills diversity in production. Evidence from the lab and the field (with Brais Álvarez Pereira (EUI); Brais Álvarez Pereira's job market paper)

[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. We also provide descriptive evidence in support of this result from a novel administrative data-set of tax collectors from Pakistan. We are able to observe groups with diverse skills following a policy requirement whereby 10\% of the civil servants were to be inducted directly from the army. We find that having an ex-military colleague is associated with a larger performance for civilian tax collectors, the larger the group in which the ex-military member is allocated. Our findings indicate 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


Incentive effects of automation in bureaucracy [click here for the abstract]

In the Presence of Others: Why do Men and Women perform differently in Mixed-Gender Teams?


Gender Quotas and Performance of Men