Working papers

Leaning in at Home: Women’s Promotions and Intra-household Bargaining in Bangladesh
This paper finds that women’s career advancement improves female bargaining power in the household, both for promoted workers directly and indirectly for workers exposed to female managers in the workplace. Women who participated in a promotion programme in Bangladesh’s garment industry become more involved in household decision-making in the short term. They are able to translate this increased involvement into higher expenditures on women and girls, and on remittances, both by appropriating additional income resulting from the promotion and by reallocating income they would have earned in the absence of the intervention. These direct effects are amplified by impacts on women exposed to the new female managers as role models, who also report more say in household decision-making and provide suggestive evidence that expenditures are reallocated away from male goods. Jointly, these results demonstrate important complementarities between women’s positions in the workplace and in the household, and open up the possibility that female career advancement may address inequities in the household for a much larger number of women than just the few who will ever attain a managerial position.

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.


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.


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

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