Research Fields

Behavioral and Experimental Economics, Applied Microeconomic Theory, Development Economics, Political Economy

Working Papers

Begging (joint with Samreen Malik) – Draft coming soon
Job Market Paper, 2024-25 Won the Econometric Society’s Best Paper Award in Applied Economics, 2022.
We study the role of meritocracy in shaping charitable behavior towards beggars. Our theoretical model posits that meritocratic individuals prefer donating to those who strive to find work but are unsuccessful. Donors rely on beggars’ begging style to discern their willingness to work, particularly whether beggars offer an item while soliciting charity. We collect data on 3000 charitable interactions across 80 streets in Delhi to find significantly higher donations to beggars with items than without items. To test for the signaling mechanism, we combine a lab-in-the-field experiment to measure the preferences of 1200 beggars, followed by a survey experiment to compare the beliefs of 1,204 potential donors about the preferences of beggars with and without items. We find causal evidence that begging with an item positively influences people’s perceptions of beggars’ willingness to work. Moreover, our evidence indicates a shallow meritocracy; people hold pessimistic beliefs about beggars’ willingness to work and update these beliefs based on the act of begging with an item, despite no underlying preference differences between the two kinds of beggars. Our findings suggest that workfare policies may receive more public support than welfare policies, even for the extremely poor.

The Persistence of Disadvantages: Theory and Experimental Evidence
Revise and Resubmit at Games and Economic Behavior
Many economic situations involve contests for resources, such as winning prizes and earning bonuses. The likelihood of success in such contests is often skewed, favoring some competitors while putting others at a disadvantage. I study the strategic interaction between an advantaged and a disadvantaged competitor in a repeated contest where winning can help overcome the initial disadvantage. Theoretically, the competition for advantage increases effort by both competitors, but the advantaged competitor increases effort more than the disadvantaged competitor. As a result, the disadvantaged competitor is even less likely to win when they have the potential to overcome their disadvantage, and the initial disadvantage is persistent. Evidence from a laboratory experiment supports these theoretical predictions. Online Appendix

Lawful Progress: Unveiling the Laws That Reshape Women’s Work Decisions (joint with Anna Fruttero and Diego Gomes)
IMF Working Paper No. 2023/252
This paper examines the impact of women’s legal rights on labor force participation decisions made by women and men through a granular analysis of 35 gendered laws. Building on previous literature, it departs from the analysis using aggregate indices due to concerns about (i) the usability of an index for policymaking purposes, (ii) the economic interpretation of an index’s average marginal effects, and (iii) the implicit assumption of homogeneous effects underlying regressions with an index. The findings identify nine key laws that can foster female labor force participation. Notably, laws related to household dynamics and women’s agency within the family, such as divorce and property rights laws, and laws regarding the ability of women to travel outside the home, are especially important in influencing their decision to work. The paper also shows that improving women’s legal rights does not improve their labor force participation through a substitution effect as it has no systematic negative effect on men’s labor force participation.


Work in Progress

Can’t agree to disagree: Fairness Concerns and Conflict (joint with Ernesto Reuben)
We examine how concerns about fairness influence the impact of income inequality on social conflict. While some studies suggest that inequality exacerbates conflict, others find no significant effects. We reconcile these discrepancies by introducing and testing a fairness mechanism that accounts for varying perceptions of income allocation. We hypothesize that conflict arises not merely from inequality, but from disagreement over whether such inequality is merit-based (and thus fair) or luck-based (and thus unfair). If inequality is universally perceived as either fair or unfair, conflict is minimal as income allocation is either accepted or peacefully renegotiated. However, when there is disagreement over perceptions over the source of inequality, conflict over the right to redistribute ensues. We test our theoretical results using a controlled laboratory experiment.