Research

Working papers

Leaning in at Home: Women’s Promotions and Intra-household Bargaining in Bangladesh
It is established that entering employment improves a woman’s bargaining position in the household. This paper investigates whether a woman’s career advancement further improves her intra-household bargaining power. I exploit quasi-random participation in a career promotion program in Bangladesh’s garment industry to causally estimate the impact of women’s promotion on household decision-making. I find that women who participate in the promotion program gain bargaining power as measured by higher expenditures on women (51%) and girls (74%), and on remittances (58%). The promotion-related income effect only partially explains these increases, suggesting that women gain more agency over household income more generally. Further, these new female managers now serve as role models to their staff. I find that the direct effects spill over to women quasi-randomly exposed to the new female managers, who
also report more say in household decisions. Complementarities between women’s positions in the workplace and in the household appear important.
(See my VoxDev column and the Let’s Talk Development blog for a summary.)

Learning How to Choose or Learning How to Lead? Experiments on Selecting and Training Female Managers in Bangladesh’s Garment Industry (with C. Woodruff)
We report the results of field experiments designed to understand the importance of the selection of and training for new female supervisors in Bangladesh’s garment factories. Participating factories have little prior experience with promoting women. We show that formal diagnostic tests lead factories to select candidates that are more likely to be promoted and who, according to their subordinates, perform better as supervisors. Diagnostics measuring attitudes and soft skills are particularly relevant for factories and predictive of later outcomes. Supervisory training for the selected candidates leads to higher rates of promotions, but has only marginal effects on performance. In none of our results do we find that training in technical skills has an additional effect when compared to a training that focuses on attitudes and soft skills. These results indicate the importance of hard measures of soft skills and attitudes in the process of selecting female supervisors, and suggest that training in non-cognitive skills could be a promising avenue to increase the participation of women in managerial positions.

Who Loses and Who Benefits from Large-scale Infrastructure Projects? Evidence from the Impact of India’s Golden Quadrilateral Project on Incumbent Manufacturing Firms
India’s Golden Quadrilateral was an ambitious infrastructure project that improved the quality and width of highways connecting four major Indian cities. This paper analyses the project’s short-term impact on incumbent manufacturing firms using firm-level panel data. Treatment is defined as being located in a city that is less than 5 km away from the Golden Quadrilateral. The results show large negative effects on employment and assets of incumbent firms close to the Golden Quadrilateral. These aggregate effects mask substantial heterogeneity. The results are primarily driven by firms which at baseline were less profitable, less productive, smaller and young. For firms with these characteristics, I find significant and very large negative effects on sales, gross profits, and employment.
In contrast, firms that were initially more successful saw their sales, gross profits and labour productivity increase, though not significantly so. These results, viewed together with existing evidence pointing towards large entry effects, provide suggestive evidence that the Golden Quadrilateral project increased competition along the improved highways even in the short term, and precipitated a reallocation of production towards more successful firms.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Lives of Garment Workers in Central Bangladesh, CSAE Working Paper WPS/2021-06 (with A. Rabbani and C. Woodruff)
This paper assesses the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) on garment workers in factories in Gazipur and North Dhaka, Bangladesh, using a sample of 1,587 individuals working in the sector at the start of the pandemic and another 381 individuals who previously worked in the sector. Using telephone surveys, we assess key outcomes in employment, health, income, and consumption. The survey will be repeated annually for a period of at least one year to trace the longer-term impacts of the pandemic on workers from the sector.

Work in progress

The Impact of Locally Produced Healthier School Meals on Student Outcomes and Female Workers’ Agency in Jordan (with J. Heirman, R. Khincha, F. Kondylis, M. P. La, S. Lombardini, B. Lerva)

The Impact of Home-Grown School Feeding in Burundi (with J. Heirman, D. Jeong, R. Khincha, F. Kondylis, M. P. La, S. Lombardini)

Gender-sensitive Experiments to Encourage Participation and Performance in a Business Plan Competition in Mozambique (with F. Campos, J. Montalvao, F. Ricaldi)

Discord and Discernment: How the Comparative Gender Attitudes of Women, Men, and Communities Relate to Women’s Well-Being (with P. Christian, L. Dinarte, F. Dunsch, M.-A. Fiorina, J. Heirman, D. Jeong, Erin Kelley, F. Kondylis, G. Lane, J. Loeser)

Methodological research

Measuring Self-efficacy, Executive Function, and Temporal Discounting in Kenya.” (with K. Esopo, D. Mellow, C. Thomas, J. Abraham, P. Jain, C. Jang, N. Otis, M. Riis-Vestergaard, A. Starcev, K. Orkin, J. Haushofer). 2018. Behaviour, Research and Therapy, 101: 30-45
Developing countries have low adherence to medical regimens like water chlorination or antenatal and postnatal care, contributing to high infant and child mortality rates. We hypothesize that high levels of stress affect adherence through temporal discounting, self-efficacy, and executive control. Measurement of these constructs in developing countries requires adaptation of existing measures. In the current study, we adapt psychological scales and behavioral tasks, measuring each of these three constructs, for use among adults in Kenya. We translated and back-translated each measure to Kiswahili and conducted cognitive interviewing to establish cultural acceptability, refined existing behavioral tasks, and developed new ones. Then, in a laboratory session lasting 3 h, participants (N=511) completed the adapted psychological inventories and behavioral tasks. We report the psychometric properties of these measures. We find relatively low reliability and poor correlational evidence between psychological scales and behavioral tasks measuring the same construct, highlighting the challenges of adapting measures across cultures, and suggesting that assays within the same domain may tap distinct underlying processes.

Blogs

How promoting women to managers catalyzes gender equality at home. Evidence from Bangladesh (Let’s Talk Development blog)

How promoting women to managers catalyses gender equality at home (VoxDev column)

Why did some countries’ workforces fare better than others in the early pandemic? (Jobs and Development blog with J. Buba, L. Iacovone and D Medvedev)

What did job reallocation look like in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic? (Jobs and Development with J. Buba, L. Iacovone and D Medvedev)