Working papers

Generalizing the Results from Social Experiments: Theory and Evidence from Mexico and India

To what extent are causal effects estimated in one region or time period informative about another region or time? In this paper, I derive bounds on the average causal effect in a context of interest using experimental evidence from another context. I use differences in outcome distributions for individuals with the same characteristics and treatment status in the original study and the context of interest to learn about unobserved differences across contexts. Greater differences in outcome distributions generate wider bounds. Empirically, I explore using experimental results on the return to cash transfers to male microentrepreneurs in one Mexican city in 2006 to predict the returns among male microentrepreneurs in urban Mexico in 2012. I show that existing methods would lead us to be overconfident in extrapolating from the small experiment to all of urban Mexico in 2012. Using data from a pair of remedial education experiments carried out in urban India, I show that the methods suggested in this paper are able to recover average causal effects in one city using results from the other where existing methods are unsuccessful.

Indian Labor Regulations and the Cost of Corruption: Evidence from the Firm Size Distribution 
(with Amrit Amirapu)
Revision requested by the Review of Economics and Statistics

In this paper, we estimate the costs associated with a suite of labor regulations in India whose components have gone largely unstudied in developing countries. We take advantage of the fact that these regulations only apply to firms above a size threshold. Using distortions in the firm size distribution at the threshold together with a structural model of firm size choice, we estimate that the regulations increase firms’ unit labor costs by 35%. We document a robust positive association between regulatory costs and exposure to corruption, which may explain why regulations appear to be so costly in developing countries.

Dynamic Effects of Product Market Regulation: Evidence from India
(with Amrit Amirapu and Gabriel Smagghue)

In this paper we consider the possibility that resource misallocation can occur not only across firms but also within firms across products. The paper includes a model which contributes to our theoretical understanding of this question as well as empirical results which suggest that misallocation within firms may be an important source of inefficiency. We model firms as making entry and product mix decisions under technological constraints and in the presence of regulations that cause product market distortions. The technological constraints we consider force firms to choose a product specialization or “core competency” which makes it costly to change product scope. We then use evidence from an Indian policy experiment to test aspects of the model and observe the various dimensions along which firms respond. The policy experiment we consider is the dismantling of the Small Scale Reservation Laws, which mandated that firms producing particular goods maintain less than a specified level of capital stock (about $1 million today). Starting in 1997 and continuing gradually over the next decade and a half, nearly all reserved goods were dereserved. Our analysis of dereservation shows that most of the policy response occurred among new firms entering the dereserved product space, rather than old firms adding new products, suggesting the presence of significant frictions along the within firm dimension.

The Effect of Slums on Urban Equity and Efficiency: Evidence from the Mumbai Mills Redevelopment
(with Nick Tsivanidis)

Selected work in progress

Market Structure and Competition in the Indian Fertilizer Industry
(with Stefan Hoderlein, Beata Itin-Shwartz and Hiroaki Kaido)

Combining Experimental and Observational Studies in Meta-Analysis: Leveraging Experimental Structures to Eliminate Selection Bias
(with Rachael Meager)

Alleviating the Congestion Effects of Rapid Urbanization: Evidence from the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Amman
(with Nick Tsivanidis and Nathaniel Young)