Working Papers

  • "Market Linkages, Trade Costs and Technology Adoption in Rural Tanzania" with Shilpa Aggarwal, Brian Giera, Jonathan Robinson, and Alan Spearot. Under Review
    [NBER Working Paper]

    We quantify market access in rural Tanzania, and the extent to which it constrains agricultural productivity. We collect granular data on farmer input and sales decisions, input and output prices, and travel costs in all 1,183 villages in two regions of Tanzania. We find that a village in the 90th percentile of the travel-cost adjusted price distribution faces input and output prices 40-55% less favorable than a village at the 10th percentile. In reduced form, an additional standard deviation of travel time is associated with 20-25% lower input adoption and output sales. We develop and quantify a spatial model of input adoption and conservatively estimate that farmers behave as if they face travel costs of 6% ad-valorem per kilometer of travel, which is equivalent to 40% when traveling to the closest retailer. Holding exogenous local factors fixed, we estimate that reducing travel costs by 50% (approximately the effect of paving rural roads) doubles adoption and reduces the adoption-remoteness gradient by 18%.

  • ''Are Transparency and Accountability Enough? Open Corruption and Why It Exists'' with Ajay Shenoy and Laura Zimmermann. Under Review
    [Ideas for India]

    The global movement against corruption has long assumed its demise lay in transparency and accountability. We test this assumption by measuring whether highly accountable Indian village council presidents favor their own households while making observable allocations of public works jobs. We link millions of public works records to election outcomes. We find that winners of close elections receive 3 times as many days of labor as losers, earning excess wages equaling two-thirds of the median president's salary. Using an original survey of council presidents we find suggestive evidence that corruption is "performance pay" used to attract talented candidates into office.

  • ''Can the Party in Power Systematically Win Close Elections? Evidence from U.S. State Assemblies'' with Ajay Shenoy. Under Review

    We study whether ruling parties can systematically win slender majorities in close legislative elections, a phenomenon called “precise control.” We test for discontinu- ities in two outcomes that, in the absence of precise control, should be smooth at the 50% cutoff: the probability density of the share of seats won, and the identity of the party that previously held a majority. We find overwhelming evidence of precise control, but only in high-stakes state elections that determine which party controls Congressional redistricting. Its absence in other elections suggests precise control is a strategic option used at the ruling party’s discretion. In high-stakes elections its electoral strategy shifts from seat maximization to majority-seeking --- tactics that theory predicts are disproportionately effective for the party defending a majority. Our results suggest these tactics are so effective that losing the majority becomes discontinuously unlikely.

  • ''Endogenous Institutions: The Case of U.S. Congressional Redistricting'' with Ajay Shenoy. Under Review

    We propose a method that simultaneously identifies where parties take control of U.S. Congressional redistricting, and how they use it. Our method exploits two institutional features: the discontinuous change in a party's control of redistricting triggered when its share of seats in the state legislature exceeds 50 percent, and the timing of the redistricting calendar. We find that parties capture redistricting in states where they are losing popularity, as reflected in the recent U.S. House races. They use redistricting to temporarily reverse their decline. Opposition candidates are 11 percentage points less likely to win just after redistricting. Opposition votes are less efficiently converted to seats and, under Republican redistricting, African Americans are more likely to be segregated into overwhelmingly black districts.

Work in Progress