Research Interests

Fields: Labor Economics, Development Economics

Topics: Intergenerational Mobility, Economics of Education, Public Policy, Gender Inequality, Behavioral Economics, Field Experiments

Research Statement

Job Market Paper

“The Effects of Affirmative Action Bans on Low-Income College Access and Upward Mobility”

Abstract: In recent years, many states in the U.S. have banned race-based affirmative action in college admissions. Public universities in these states have put more weight on socioeconomic factors, such as family income, to ensure a diverse student body without the explicit consideration of race. This paper investigates whether statewide affirmative action bans improve college access for low-income students and subsequently help them climb the economic ladder. Using institution-level data, I find that the elimination of race-based preferences increases the enrollment share of low-income and first-generation students at selective public universities. The positive impact on college access is driven by low-income Asian students. Banning the use of race in admissions also raises the upward mobility rate, which measures the extent to which an institution contributes to intergenerational income mobility.

“Does Public School Spending Raise Intergenerational Mobility? Evidence from the U.S. School Finance Reforms”, Draft Available Upon Request

Abstract: This study examines whether investment in public schools can enhance equality of opportunity as measured by intergenerational income mobility (IGM). To estimate the causal effect of public school spending, I exploit the plausibly exogenous variation in school spending induced by the U.S. court-mandated school finance reforms. I use county-level college attendance rate and IGM constructed based on administrative tax records. Students are more likely to attend college due to additional resources in public schools. An increase in school spending raises IGM of children from high-income families. However, public school spending has little impact on IGM of low-income children. The school spending effects are concentrated among low-poverty counties. In particular, I find a significant increase in IGM of low-income children in low-poverty counties, which implies that the positive effect of school spending might be mitigated by negative environments in high poverty areas.

“Goal Setting and Student Effort: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Zanzibar”, with Asadul Islam (Monash University), Eema Masood (World Bank), Nishith Prakash (University of Connecticut), and Shwetlena Sabarwal (World Bank), Draft Available Upon Request

Abstract: Non-binding self-set goals are widely used in daily life as instruments for motivation and self-control. We estimate the impact of this cost-effective commitment device in a developing country, Tanzania. In collaboration with the World Bank and Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, we conducted a randomized field experiment in 187 secondary schools in Zanzibar. Schools were randomly placed into either goal-setting group wherein each Grade 7 student set a specific competitively self-referenced target for an upcoming achievement test or into the control group. We find that the goal setting intervention significantly increases student efforts as measured by study time. However, we do not find a significant impact on student test scores. This is not entirely surprising as a majority of nonfinancial interventions in the literature have found limited to no impact on student test scores.

“Dowry: Household Responses to Expected Marriage Payments”, with S Anukriti (Boston College) and Nishith Prakash (University of Connecticut)
Media coverage: Huffington Post, The Conversation Global

Abstract: Dowry is a ubiquitous feature of South Asian marriage markets. However, empirical research on dowry has been limited by the lack of data. We utilize retrospective information on gifts exchanged at the time of marriage for 39,544 marriages during 1960-2008 (a) to describe dowry trends and (b) to examine the impact of dowry expectations on households’ financial and childbearing decisions in contemporary rural India. Average real net dowry has been remarkably stable over time; although there is considerable heterogeneity across castes, religions, and states. We find that, relative to parents of firstborn-boys, parents of firstborn-girls increase per capita household saving and fathers work more after the child’s birth if expected future dowry payment is higher. However, dowry has no impact on fertility and sex-selection. Lastly, the effects on expenditure on children’s education are inconclusive.

“Helping Settle the Marijuana and Alcohol Debate: Evidence from Scanner Data”, with Michele Baggio (University of Connecticut) and Alberto Chong (Georgia State University), Under Review
Media coverage: Washington Post, Mother Jones
Abstract: We use data on purchases of alcoholic beverages across US counties for 2006-2015 to study the link between medical marijuana laws (MMLs) and alcohol consumption and focus on settling the on-going debate between the substitutability and complementarity between these two substances. To do this we exploit differences in the timing of marijuana laws among states and find that they are substitutes. Counties located in MML states reduced monthly alcohol sales by 15 percent. Our findings are robust to border counties analysis, placebo effective dates for MMLs in treated states, and a falsification test using sales of pens and pencils.

Works in Progress

“Sex Ratio and Dowry: Evidence from India”‘, with S Anukriti (Boston College) and Nishith Prakash (University of Connecticut)

Abstract: In the literature, dowry is often considered as a market clearing price. Using retrospective information on gifts exchanged at the time of marriage for 39,544 marriages during 1960-2008, we examine whether the sex-ratio in the marriage market affects dowry payment. We find that higher male-female sex ratios at birth are correlated with lower dowry payment.