Hunger and Health: Reexamining the Impact of Household Food Insecurity on Child Malnutrition in India, with Gaurav Dhamija and Punarjit Roychowdhury, Journal of Development Studies (forthcoming).

Gender gap in schooling: Is there a role for health insurance?, Journal of International Development, 2021, DOI:

Who’s your neighbour? Social influences on domestic violence, with Mehreen Mookerjee and Sanket Roy, Journal of Development Studies, DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2021.1969012. (Supplementary Material)

Do Online Courses Provide an Equal Educational Value Compared to In-Person Classroom Teaching? Evidence from US Survey Data using Quantile Regression, with Mohammad Arshad Rahman, Education Policy Analysis Archives, 2021, Vol. 29, No. 85, 1-25

Spousal beliefs and intimate partner violence: Are we conditioned to internalize patriarchal norms? with Mehreen Mookerjee and Sanket Roy, Economics Letters, 2021, 202, 109811

Working papers:

What women want: The case of son preference and female sterilization, with Mehreen Mookerjee and Sanket Roy

We investigate whether or not a woman’s son preference being met has an impact on the likelihood of her getting sterilized. Using the fourth wave of the National Family Health Survey of India, 2015-16, we utilize information on the actual number of sons born to a woman as well as her preferred or ‘ideal’ number of sons to measure whether her preferences are met. We exploit exogenous variation in the sex of the firstborn child as an instrument to identify our desired effects. Using a conditional mixed processes estimation technique we find that, having controlled for total number of children, if a woman bears at least as many sons as she considers ideal, i.e. she satisfies her desire for sons, then the probability of her sterilization increases by 25.7 percentage points. Our estimates are robust to alternative estimation strategies. We also find that whether or not a woman has borne her desired number of sons has a lesser impact on her sterilization decisions for those who have attained higher education. Overall, our results suggest a policy focus on gender composition of kids rather than total number of kids for family planning; expansion of gender sensitive educational campaigns in this regard; and designing mechanisms to boost the continuation and completion of women’s education beyond a focus on enrollments.

Women’s ownership and access: Effects on intra-household decisions, with Mehreen Mookerjee

We examine the effect of women’s autonomy on their relative decision-making power in households. Using an instrumental variable approach, we exploit spatial distribution of women’s exposure to different forms of media as a source of exogenous variation to identify this effect. We find strong causal impacts of higher autonomy on their relative say in decision-making. However, there is evidence of diminishing marginal effect of women’s autonomy on their relative say. We further explore components of relative decision-making power and autonomy to tease out the sources through which women derive autonomy. We suggest that sole ownership of financial assets rather than physical assets are the main drivers of autonomy, resulting in changes in their bargaining positions. These effects are highlighted for older women; unemployed women; women more educated than their husbands; in families with more daughters; and in rural areas. Our results are robust to a number of econometric concerns. 

Spillover effects of family planning: Impact of contraceptive use on child malnutrition, with Mehreen Mookerjee and Sanket Roy

We use nationally representative data from the fourth wave of the National Family Health Survey of India on women and their children aged below 5 years to evaluate the impact of contraceptive use on child health outcomes. Using exogenous variation in a woman’s knowledge of her fertile period as an instrument, we estimate that the use of contraception leads to a 1.01 SD and 0.54 SD increase in a child’s height-for-age and weight-for-age z-scores respectively. Our results also indicate that contraceptive use can reduce the likelihood of a child being moderately (acutely) stunted by 8.4 pp (19 pp) and moderately (acutely) underweight by 6.9 pp (7.7 pp) respectively. We find evidence that contraception use increases the probability of a child being fed a more diverse diet which points to a potential mechanism through which our findings perpetrate. Our results indicate that a greater focus on the access to (and use of) contraceptive measures can lead to sizeable bene ts in terms of child health apart from population stabilization.

The effect of quality of education on crime: Evidence from Colombia, with Andres F. Giraldo Palomino

This paper evaluates the impact of quality of education on violence and crime using student performances on a mandatory examination as the measure of quality. The paper exploits transfers of funds from central government to municipalities for investments in education as a source of exogenous variation and finds that better education quality has a negative impact on economic crimes such as kidnapping rates, rate of theft on persons and presence of illegal armed groups. The findings are consistent with an opportunity cost effect of education, that is, high quality education increases expectations of being absorbed by the labor market and discourages engaging in criminal activities. Results also point to perhaps a pacifying effect of education such that improvement of education quality generates less violent environments, promotes social and political stability. The results are found to be robust to a number of econometric concerns and different measures of quality of education.

Intra-household consumption decisions: Evidence from NREGA

This paper studies the impact of India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act on the pattern of household consumption behaviour. NREGA guarantees employment which increases labour market opportunities, in particular, for females relative to males, which may cause a shift in household spending towards goods that are more in line with preferences of women. These shifts are likely to be amplified in regions with higher share of women employed through NREGA, in states that guarantee employment at higher minimum wages, and rice growing regions of India where females are traditionally more intensively involved in production. Using two rounds of nationally representative data, the phase wise roll-out of NREGA to districts across India is exploited to determine the programme’s impact. The paper finds exposure to NREGA to have economically and statistically significant effects on household consumption patterns and these effects are broadly suggestive of an increase in female bargaining power.

Work in Progress

“Degrees of Inequality: Why are there fewer women in undergraduate economics?”, with Priyanka Chakraborty

Evidence suggests that women do not major in quantitatively heavy fields to the same degree as their male counterparts. Given this current under-representation of women in such courses across the United States, we attempt to understand the decisions made by students to pursue a major in college. Through a randomized field experiment conducted on the sample of incoming female students to Southern Methodist University in 2016, we test whether information provided matters in women picking a field of study and if so, what kind of information and the mode of dissemination. Women are known to be more social minded than men and may be driven more by intrinsic motivations rather than extrinsic. Alternately, they might be driven by salary expectations in labor market outcomes. Using economics as an example of a math intensive field which records a marked gender gap, we try to capture whether attitudes of women towards their choice of majors are in fact affected by the kind of information they receive about the course and in the process understand the aforementioned preferences and motivations that drive women. Concomitantly, we try to quantify peer influence in driving women’s major choices by varying the source of information.