Working Papers

Meritocracy in a Bureaucracy [latest version]

Abstract: How do decision makers use information about ability of workers in making 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 [email for 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.

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 meant to help them perform on tests.  Co-worker allocation was randomized on two dimensions: (1) gender and (2) student preference for that co-worker at baseline. We find that randomly chosen male co-workers reduce the performance of females (12% of the average score), while preferred male co-workers have a positive yet statistically insignificant effect (6% of the average score). These 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. To investigate the mechanism behind these effects, we randomly allocated hints as an additional source of information across questions. We find that some (but not all) of these differences are driven by difficulty in accessing additional information or hints  in the presence of random male  co-workers. 

Diversity in small or large groups? Experimental Evidence [email for latest version]

(with Brais Álvarez Pereira (Universidade NOVA SBE))

Abstract: In this paper we investigate whether the effect of diversity on performance depends on size of the group. We carried out a lab-in-the-field experiment with university nursing and economics students in Guinea-Bissau. Students were randomly assigned partners of different skills meant to help them perform on tests. We find that in groups with homogenous skills, size of the group does not matter for performance. However, in groups with a skill diverse member, students have a 6% increase in their performance when they work in a large group relative to a small one. However, these positive effects only materialize for male students.  For female students there is no such average effect. To test whether gender of the skill diverse member had a role to play, we randomly assigned skill diverse partners of different genders. We find that while gender does not matter for men, gender of the partner plays an important role for female students. In a large group, performance of female student improves when matched with a skill diverse student of the same gender, while it reduces when matched with a male skill diverse student. These effects reverse in the case of small groups. Our findings suggest that both group size and gender play a central role in determining how skills diversity affects performance of workers.

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]

Selected Work in Progress

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

Welfare Effects of Improving Public Distribution System in India (with Sheetal Seekhri (UVA) and Gaurav Chiplunkar (UVA))

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))