Job Market Paper
- Private Returns to Bureaucratic Appointments: Evidence from Financial Disclosures, with Amit Chaudhary
We examine whether bureaucrats with fixed salaries obtain high private returns. We digitize the financial disclosures of elite bureaucrats from India and combine this novel data with web-scraped career histories to estimate the private returns to public servants after bureaucratic reassignments. Employing a difference-in-differences event study approach, we find that the annual growth rate is 10% higher for the value of assets and 4.4% higher for the number of assets after a bureaucrat is transferred to an important ministry with the power to make influential policies. Exploring the underlying mechanism, we document that the results are consistent with an explanation based on the rent-seeking behaviours of bureaucrats. The increase in assets is higher after reassignment to important ministries that are more prone to corruption and is higher in more corruption-prone states. Bureaucrats working in their home states accumulate more immovable assets after the bureaucratic transfers. Previous experience in important ministries continues to contribute to the asset accumulation of bureaucrats. These findings add new insights to the conventional view on the incentives in bureaucracies by showing that bureaucrats may also face high-powered incentives in the form of private returns.
- Malaria and Chinese Economic Activities in Africa, with Matteo Cervellati, Elena Esposito and Uwe Sunde (accepted, Journal of Development Economics)
We present novel evidence for the influence of malaria exposure on the geographic location of Chinese economic activities in Africa. The hypothesis is based on the observation that many Chinese aid projects and infrastructure contractors rely on Chinese personnel. High malaria exposure might constitute an important impediment to their employment and productivity. Combining data on Chinese aid and construction projects with geo-localized information about the presence of individuals from internet posts reveals a lower density of Chinese activities and of Chinese workers in areas with a high malaria exposure. This effect is mitigated partly through heterogeneity across sectors and immunity of the local population, through the selection of Chinese workers from regions in China with historically high malaria risk, and through the availability of malaria treatment.
- Demographic Shocks and Women's Labor Market Participation: Evidence from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in India, with James Fenske and Bishnupriya Gupta (revised & resubmitted, Journal of Economic History)
Non-technical summary: CAGE, Ideas for India
How did the 1918 influenza pandemic affect female labor force participation in India over the short run and the medium run? We use an event-study approach at the district level and four waves of decadal census data in order to answer this question. We find that districts most adversely affected by influenza mortality saw a temporary increase in female labor force participation in 1921, an increase that was concentrated in the service sector. We find suggestive evidence that distress labor supply by widows and rising wages help account for this result. By 1931, this increase had been reversed.
What determines the prevalence of family firms? In this project, we investigate the role of historical family culture in the spatial distribution of family firms. Using detailed firm-level data from China, we find that there is a larger share of family firms in regions with a stronger historical family culture, as measured by genealogy density. The results are further confirmed by the nearest neighbor matching method and an instrumental variable approach. Examining the mechanisms, we find that entrepreneurs in regions with a stronger historical family culture: i) tend to have family members engage more in firms; ii) are more likely to raise initial capital from family members; iii) are more willing to pass on the firms to their children. Historical family culture predicts better firm performance due to a lower leverage ratio.
Work in Progress
- Keep Calm and Carry On: Natural Disasters and Political Turnover in China, with Xian Xu