Job Market Paper

“The Effect of Export Activity on Domestic Prices: Evidence from India's Rice Sector"

December 2020 [Latest Draft]

Coverage: World Bank Development Impact Blog

How does export activity affect prices in domestic consumer markets? To explore this question, I exploit a natural experiment provided by India’s rice export restrictions during 2007-2011. I first document that the binding restrictions had a considerable negative impact on producers. However, there is little evidence to suggest that the lower prices transmitted to consumers. To estimate the causal impact of export activity on domestic consumer prices, I use a difference-in-differences framework. I show that, following the imposition of export restrictions, Indian districts with higher exposure to export trade experienced a greater increase in prices paid by consumers in local markets. To measure the intensity of exposure to trade, I use a novel strategy exploiting spatial variation in districts’ proximities to export trade routes along India’s road network. The estimated price effects are substantial – prices increased by an additional 5 to 6.5 percent in districts exposed to export activity. Further, the impact of export activity on prices is most pronounced for higher-quality products. I illustrate that the presence of strong complementarities between exports and intra-national trade is the main mechanism driving my results. By exploiting synergies with export activity, intra-national trade encounters lower domestic trade costs, which are then translated to lower prices faced by consumers in domestic markets. My findings suggest that promoting export activity could be a means to reduce intra-national trade barriers for large developing economies.

Working Projects

“Political (Mis)selection: The Role of Historical Institutions"

October 2020 [Draft]

Is there a persistent impact of historical institutions on the selection of “bad" politicians? In this paper, I document the nuanced consequences of history on modern adverse political selection using variation in colonial land tenure systems during British rule in India. Politicians with criminal charges are significantly more likely to run for office, and win elections, in areas where extractive landlords historically held substantial property rights. Corrupt politicians who experience disproportionately large private financial gains in office, however, are significantly more likely to be in areas where individual cultivators historically held property rights. My analysis establishes these estimates are not biased by endogeneity concerns. Rather, a plausible mechanism indicates a comparative advantage for criminal politicians in the conflictual electoral environment of landlord areas. The relatively less competitive elections in non-landlord areas, instead, are susceptible to elite capture and subsequent wealth accumulation by politicians.

“Financial Inclusion for Smallholder Farmers using Digital Credit: Experimental Evidence from Ghana", with Dean Karlan, Monica Lambon-Quayefio, and Christopher Udry

AEA RCT Registry ID 0005829 [Pre Analysis Plan]

Coverage: The Center for Effective Global Action Blog

The success of small scale farmers relies on the availability of adequate financial markets. Binding credit constraints can be an impediment to investment in a setting with potentially high expected returns. In this paper, we incorporate and analyze the impact of a nascent, promising technology which can overcome barriers preventing wider financial inclusion: digital credit. We use an RCT to study how digital credit affects the investment choices and economic outcomes of small scale farmers in Ghana. Our research is the first to investigate whether digital financing can overcome agricultural credit constraints. Our study design also comprises several innovations. First, credit is randomized at the individual farmer level to prevent self-selection into borrowing. Second, because the fungibility of money leads to difficulties in measuring the impacts of credit, our loan product consists of agricultural inputs for direct farm use. Third, frequent repayment schedules of standard microcredit schemes can limit potentially productive investments. To circumvent this, farmers in our setting receive credit during planting season and begin repayment only at the time of harvest. Endline results available soon.

“Digital Networks and the Diffusion of Political Movements: Evidence from Mobile Internet in Africa", with Ricardo Dahis and Joris Mueller

September 2020 [Most Recent Slides]

We study the diffusion of political movements via digital networks, exploiting the rapid rollout of 3G mobile internet across the African continent over the last decade. Our main result illustrates that political protests are significantly more likely to spill over between places that share a language after they get connected to each other through 3G. To arrive at our results, we use an innovative empirical design motivated by a gravity model estimated on a dyadic dataset. We document that the spillovers between places connected to 3G are practically independent of spatial distance. This is in sharp contrast to how spillovers between places without 3G decay with spatial distance. The results suggest that communication networks may contribute to the spread of political movements beyond the geographic neighborhood traditionally studied in the literature. We confirm that our results are resilient to a battery of robustness and placebo checks. We then show evidence that social media usage and group identities can play important roles in explaining our results. We are currently exploring these mechanisms using novel data on social networks provided to us by Facebook.

Other Works in Progress

“Does Land Use Consolidation Work? Evidence from Rwanda", with Florence Kondylis and Jeremy Magruder

“Technology, Information and Integration: Evidence from India's National Agriculture Market"