Research

Research Papers

Safety First: Perceived Risk of Street Harassment and Educational Choices of Women
(Job Market Paper)
Supported by Data2X and the UN Foundation
Media Coverage:  Quartz | The Hindustan Times | Le MondeThe New Statesman |
                                The World Bank Blog | Stop Street Harassment Blog
This paper examines the impact of perceived risk of street harassment on women’s human capital attainment. I assemble a unique dataset that combines information on 4,000 students at the University of Delhi from a survey that I designed and conducted, a mapping of the potential travel routes to all colleges in the students’ choice set using an algorithm I developed in Google Maps, and crowd-sourced mobile application safety data. Using a random utility framework, I estimate that women are willing to choose a college in the bottom half of the quality distribution over a college in the top quintile for a route that is perceived to be one standard deviation (SD) safer. Alternatively, women are willing to spend an additional INR 18,800 (USD 290) per year, relative to men, for a route that is one SD safer — an amount equal to double the average annual college tuition. These findings have implications for other economic decisions made by women. For example, it could help explain the puzzle of low female labor force participation in India.
“Wealth, Marriage, and Sex Selection”  (with Jan Eeckhout, Nancy Luke, Shantidani Minz, Kaivan Munshi, and Soumya Swaminathan)
Sex selection continues to be a serious problem in India, despite many decades of economic progress. It is widely believed that dowries, or large marriage payments to the groom’s family are the main cause of sex selection in India, especially among the wealthy. Our theoretical model clarifies this argument, showing that the root cause of sex selection is not dowries but specific frictions in the marriage market, which arise because of the structure of the marriage institution. The model predicts that relatively wealthy households within castes, which define independent marriage markets in India, will be more likely to practice sex selection. This prediction is tested with unique data we have collected, covering the entire population of 1.1 million individuals residing in half a rural district in South India. We find that the variation in sex ratios within castes in this single district is comparable to the variation across all districts in the country. Given that the marriage market is organized the same way in all castes, sex selection may be a more pervasive problem than is currently believed. Estimation of the model’s structural parameters allows us to quantify the impact of alternative policies, which operate through the marriage market, to reduce sex selection. We find that cash transfers to adult women, which forward-looking parents will take into account when making sex selection decisions, are substantially more effective than transfers to their parents when they are children.
“Tribal Identity in Education: Does Teacher Ethnicity Affect Student Performance?”
Reducing achievement gaps between minorities and non-minorities by raising the achievement of minority students is considered a critical component of promoting inclusive growth, both in terms of human capital and economic well-being. Using large scale administrative panel data for all schools in Jharkhand, India, I study the effect of having a co-ethnic teacher on the extensive margin of student enrollment. In particular, I estimate the impact of having a tribal teacher on enrollment of tribal students. I find that co-ethnic teachers are 0.44 standard deviations per year more effective at retaining students relative to a teacher belonging to a different ethnic group. I also develop a theoretical model that identifies whether the observed effects of switching to a co-ethnic teacher are caused by a decrease in discriminatory activities or from an increase in the marginal return to teacher effort. In this context, I find that the main mechanism underlying the positive effect of having a co-ethnic teacher is the decrease in discriminatory activities by a co-ethnic teacher relative to teachers belonging to a different ethnic group.

Work in Progress

Gender Based Violence in Public Transportation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (with Bilal Siddiqi)
Community Effects and Child Sex Ratios (with Ashley Larsen Gibby, Nancy Luke, and Hongwei Xu)
Urban Corridors and Economic Opportunities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (with Simon Franklin, Erin Kelley, and Javier Morales Sarriera)