Selected Publications

Can Public Servant Performance Be Increased? Experimental Evidence on Efforts to Improve Teaching in India

with Andreas de Barros, Paul Glewwe, and Ashwini Shankar. Conditionally accepted via pre-results review process at the Journal of Development Economics. [Draft available upon request]

We study a large program that seeks to improve mathematics learning in public primary schools in India. In a cluster-randomized trial, two treatment arms promoted activity-based instruction by providing teaching materials and teacher training. One of these arms also promoted community engagement through community-led student contests. A third arm remained untreated. After 13 months, the version without contests improved teaching quality and learning (predominantly among girls). Both versions improved student attitudes towards math. Yet, the addition of contests---which are intended to put pressure on teachers to increase their students’ performance---worsened instructional quality (especially classroom culture), and we can rule out that the contests added even small improvements in learning.

Pre-registered at the AEA RCT Trial Registry (AEARCTR-0003494)

Domestic Violence, Decision-Making Power, and Female Employment in Colombia

Review of Economics of the Household, 19 (1), 233-254. 2021 [Ungated version here]

Using data from the Colombian Demographic and Health Survey, I document a positive association between intimate partner violence against women and the likelihood of women’s employment. This finding persists when I exploit the husband’s own childhood experience of abuse as a source of plausibly exogenous variation for the incidence of domestic violence. To explore potential mechanisms underlying this association, I use a mediation analysis in the presence of intermediate confounders. I find suggestive evidence that a woman’s decision-making power—measured by active input in household and healthcare decisions—as well as a measure for willingness to divorce are likely mediators. I argue that abused women may hold jobs to increase their economic independence and potentially exit abusive relationships.

Foods and Fads: The Welfare Impacts of Rising Quinoa Prices in Peru

with Marc F. Bellemare and Seth Gitter. World Development, 112, 163-179. 2018 [Ungated version here]

Riding on a wave of interest in “superfoods” in rich countries, quinoa went in less than a decade from being largely unknown outside of South America to being an upper-class staple in the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. As a result, concerned commentators suggested that the rising international demand for quinoa, which tripled prices, might have substantially harmed Peruvian quinoa consumers. We study the impacts of rising quinoa prices on the welfare of Peruvian households. Our analysis suggests these fears are unwarranted. A descriptive analysis shows that quinoa is a small part (<1%) of the average household’s budget share for the roughly 30% of households that consume quinoa. Our econometric analysis generally finds that as quinoa prices rose, welfare increased in regions with higher concentrations of quinoa consumers. Specifically, we use 11 years of a large-scale, nationally representative household survey to construct pseudo-panels at three geographic (district, province, and department) levels to look at the relationship between the international price of quinoa and the value of real household consumption, our proxy for household welfare. We find for the two smaller geographic regions (i.e., districts and provinces) higher concentrations of quinoa consumption or production are associated with a small and statistically significant increase in household welfare in response to quinoa price increases; in the largest regions (i.e., departments), higher concentrations of quinoa consumption or production are associated with small declines in welfare of less than 1% of total household consumption. Our findings that the international trade of quinoa has not been harmful to household welfare in Peru thus run counter to some of the myths surrounding quinoa.

Inequality of Opportunity in Adult Health in Colombia

The Journal of Economic Inequality, 14(4), 395–416. 2016 [Ungated version here]

This paper measures inequality of opportunity in adult health in Colombia using the 2010 Living Standards and Social Mobility Survey, a rich dataset that provides unique information about individual childhood circumstances in that country. Dissimilarity and Gini-opportunity indexes are calculated to provide different measures of inequality of opportunity using a self-reported variable for health status. The Shapley-value decomposition is then used to estimate the contribution of early-life circumstances such as parental background, region of origin and ethnicity to inequality of opportunity. The findings suggest that 8 % to 10 % of the circumstance-driven opportunities distinctively enjoyed by those who are healthier should be redistributed or otherwise compensated in order to achieve equality of opportunity. Differences in household socio-economic status during childhood and parental educational attainment appear to be the most salient dimensions of inequality of opportunity in adult health.