Works in progress
The Long Shadow of Feudalism: The Persistent Concentration of Land and Power from Princely to Postcolonial India with Steven Brownstone
How do large landowning families dominate rural areas across generations despite revolutions and reforms? One potential channel is that these elites subvert government efforts to empower the landless in their communities. We hope to study how differences in village land concentration stemming from the granting of feudal titles hundreds of years ago affects the delivery of welfare schemes in the present day. A fertile literature evaluates the effects of land tenure systems on agricultural productivity and downstream economic outcomes. However, most of this literature focuses on colonial and post-colonial land tenure policies, and evaluates a narrow set of agricultural and policy outcomes. We exploit variation in pre-colonial land tenure systems at a vastly more granular level than is seen in the literature to evaluate the impacts on a comprehensive set of arterial welfare programs including food security and workfare. We implement a regression discontinuity along feudal borders that no longer correspond with modern administrative boundaries. Large discontinuities in land concentration persist across these boundaries. These differences are associated with both greater farm mechanization and yields as well as worse implementation of workfare schemes. These areas spend 70% less per-capita on workfare while being less well-off on average. While laborers overall in these areas are worse served by the state, they do respond politically. Voters in formerly feudal areas are 12 to 18 percentage points more likely to elect leftist politicians from a base likelihood of 3 percent. Identifying where economic empowerment has been possible despite land inequality and where land inequality has hindered it will help guide future efforts to address India's long standing inequities.
Long-run Effects of Targeting Schooling Investments at Historically Disadvantaged Groups with Naveen Kumar
We use admissions lotteries to estimate the long-run effects of a residential middle school system targeted at historically disadvantaged communities in India. Residential middle school enrollment boosts years of schooling, test scores, college attendance, senior secondary school graduation, and labor force participation. We also find that treated students have substantially smaller and more caste-homogenous networks. While treated students have better observable employability, their labor market outcomes are weakly worse, likely due to slower job arrival rates and homogenous networks. Our findings illustrate the potential impacts of delivering high-quality educational infrastructure at historically disadvantaged groups, while also highlighting the importance of measuring long-term and non–test score outcomes in evaluating the effectiveness of education programs.
Dispersed settlement of village populations can generate competition between groups for scarce resources. Such competition may enhance state capacity to provide public goods like schools, banks and mobile phone towers. However, it may also lead to the under-provision of highly targeted public goods, like drinking water taps and farm ponds, if competing settlements prevent investments in other parts of the village, or incomplete road networks prevent agglomeration economies. We test which of the effects persist using data on the number and locations of hamlets in villages across India, and public goods delivery outcomes on both broad and highly targeted amenities. We plan to use exogenous variation from a country-wide road building program (PMGSY) that connects hamlets to test whether incomplete road networks exacerbate competition between hamlets.
Given the lack of consumer credit in developing countries and the need for consumption smoothing, store credit requests, or informal buy now pay later requests, are ubiquitous. In this project, we collect transaction-by-customer-level data from a sample of Indian street shops and document stylized facts on the scale, cycles and concentration of this phenomena. Additionally, we design survey and field experiments to understand business owners' incentives in selling on credit and the implications of this practice on businesses and consumers. On the one hand, store credit requests may constitute a `'kin tax' on business owners facing social pressure to lend to their social network, even at the expense of business liquidity. On the other hand, store credit might increase businesses' market access and customer loyalty in otherwise homogeneous and spatially dense markets. Shedding light on these opposing forces, we aim to unpack the cultural and market considerations and implications of store credit requests, and its downstream implications in terms of consumer welfare and firm survival and growth.
Job Referrals and Occupational Segregation
Data collection ongoing.