The Impact of Intra-household Information Asymmetry on Labor Productivity:  An Experimental Study in Cambodia (job market paper) [working paper] 

with Ruchi Mahadeshwar

Conference Presentation: SAEC 2024, CES NORTH AMERICA 2024, JADE 2024, SEHO 2024, COSME Gender Economics Workshop 2024

Coverage:  BOOM Live

Funded by Bravo Center Research Grants

Using a field experiment among garment factory workers in Cambodia, we estimate the effects of randomly disclosing spousal income on productivity in a standardized work task. Recent work has shown the significant effect of information asymmetry on spousal bargaining. However, the impact of this asymmetry on productivity, and subsequently the overall pool of resources available for bargaining, is often overlooked.  We find that the disclosure of income significantly impacts how much income is earned compared to a nondisclosure scenario where spouses can decide the amount they report to their spouse, and, therefore, how it is allocated. The effects differ dramatically by gender: when income is disclosed to their spouses, women tend to decrease productivity. By contrast, men do the opposite: when income is disclosed, they increase productivity. We reconcile these findings with a model where spouses’ bargaining power and the cost of misreporting income determine their effort in anticipation of whether they can be the residual claimant of that income or be forced to bargain over it. Overall, this study sheds light on the unintended consequences of financial or pay transparency policies on both productivity and household inequality.

Dissecting Piece-rate: Evidence from a natural field study in a Cambodian Garment Factory [work in progress]

with Ruchi Mahadeshwar

Funded by NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Awards and IFREE Small Grants

Performance-based pay has been lauded as a potential solution to enhance labor productivity in industries grappling with low output levels. However, despite theoretical arguments supporting the effectiveness of performance-based pay in motivating individual worker effort, its overall impact remains uncertain, particularly when transitioning from fixed pay to performance-based pay. This paper presents a unique natural experiment in the Cambodian garment manufacturing sector, where a large factory implements two major interventions: a worker performance monitoring system and a performance-based wage scheme. Leveraging the staggered roll-out of these interventions, we aim to disentangle the mechanisms through which performance-based pay influences labor productivity. By analyzing productivity changes in treated and untreated production lines, we will assess the effects of performance monitoring and performance-based pay. Additionally, we will investigate the sorting effect of performance-based pay by studying turnover and heterogeneous treatment effects based on workers' preferences for incentive systems.

Chinese Aid and Local Government Popularity [working paper]

The growing appeal of Chinese development finance has sparked interest in understanding its underlying factors. This paper investigates the distinct political interests of local leadership in accepting Chinese aid and its impact on public opinion toward the incumbent government. Leveraging microdata, we estimate the effects of Chinese-financed projects on local attitudes by matching Afrobarometer survey responses to detailed data on Chinese aid initiatives. Employing the difference-in-difference approach, our analysis reveals that the introduction of a new Chinese-funded project is associated with a 0.2–0.4 unit increase in approval for the incumbent leadership among the population residing within 50 kilometers of the project site. Moreover, additional analyses suggest that Chinese-funded projects influence local political support by improving the performance of the local government. These findings provide valuable insights into the allure of Chinese aid and its implications for local political dynamics.

High- vs. Low-Risk Labor: Female Service Workers and the Sex Trade [work in progress]

with Ruchi Mahadeshwar

Funded by the Weiss Fund

Economic growth and inflow of capital in Southeast Asia have established the service sector as a primary job creator for women and, thus, means to promote formal female labor participation (FLFP). However, the service sector’s close ties to the sex trade continue to present these women with high-risk, informal income-generating opportunities, most notably through risky paid sex like condomless sex or sex with high-risk partners. While the literature has illustrated the positive relationship between FLFP and common economic development indicators (Heath and Jayachandran, 2018) and common poverty alleviation interventions have been tested to decrease the incentives for women to supply sex (Jones and Gong, 2021; Gong et al., 2019), this study will investigate the interaction between FLFP and the market for sex by assessing how women tradeoff between these two types of labor. Using data from a cluster RCT enrolling Cambodian female service workers, we will study the effects of offering service work incentives on women’s risk-taking via measuring impacts on labor supply choices and earnings (service, sex, vs. other work), health outcomes (HIV and other STI results), and financial conditions.

Other Projects 

"Why Are Women Not Hiring Women? A Non-Bayesian Social Learning Experiment"  

with Chien-tzu Cheng and Giacomo  Rubbini,  Funded by Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy Research Fellowships.

"Beneficiary Impacts and Targeting in Mumbai's Subsidized-Housing Program"  

with Ruchi Mahadeshwar, Funded by Brown Center for Contemporary South Asia and  Bravo Center Research Grants.