Linking Mobile Money Networks to “e-ROSCAs”: An Experimental Study (with Patrick Francois)
Science Advances, Jan 2021
We present results from a study in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that uses mobile money networks to run rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs), peer-to-peer finance groups ubiquitous across the developing world. We find high rates of contribution and ROSCA success. The unexpected success of such e-ROSCAs and their potential to extend banking to the bankless poor necessitate further exploration.
Health Knowledge and Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa (with Anne E. Fitzpatrick, Sabrin A. Beg, Laura C. Derksen, Anne Karing, Jason T. Kerwin, Adrienne Lucas, Natalia Ordaz Reynoso)
Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, forthcoming
Revision requested, American Economic Review
This paper documents strong pressure on productive entrepreneurs in a developing country setting to share their income. This ‘kinship tax’ can distort productive decisions, including investment. I conduct a lab experiment with a sample of 1805 Kenyans to quantify the importance of this tax. In my sample, one in three men men and one in ﬁve women face distortionary pressure to share income. Strikingly, this share is strongly increasing in ability, suggesting potentially large aggregate production consequences. Male entrepreneurs who receive cash grants expand their business only if they do not face distortionary kinship taxation as measured in the lab.
Economic consequences of kinship: Evidence from US bans on cousin marriage (with Arkadev Ghosh and Sam Il Myoung Hwang)
Close-kin marriage, by sustaining tightly-knit family structures, may impede development. We find support for this hypothesis using US state-level bans on cousin marriage. Our measure of cousin marriage comes from the excess frequency of same-surname marriages, a method borrowed from population genetics that we apply to millions of marriage records from 1800 to 1940. We show that state bans on first-cousin marriage did reduce rates of in-marriage, and that affected descendants therefore have higher incomes and more schooling. Our results are consistent with this effect being driven by weakening family ties rather than a genetic channel.
Links and legibility: Making sense of historical U.S. Census automated linking methods (with Arkadev Ghosh and Sam Il Myoung Hwang)
This paper explores the effect of handwriting legibility on the performance of algorithms that link individuals across census rounds. We propose a measure of legibility which we implement at scale for the 1940 US Census, and ﬁnd strikingly wide variation in enumerator-level legibility. Using boundary discontinuities in enumeration districts, we estimate the causal effect of low legibility on the performance of a set of popular automated linking algorithms. We show that one algorithm out-performs the rest across the spectrum of high to low legibility, and ﬁnd that it provides a better measure of 10-year interstate migration.
Work in progress
Family ties and migration: Evidence from historical U.S. census data (with Arkadev Ghosh and Sam Il Myoung Hwang)
While social networks are a key determinant of migration decisions, useful measures of these networks are hard to come by. This is especially so in large, population-scale datasets. We show that surnames are a useful proxy for kin-based social networks using multiple full-count rounds of the US census from the late 19th century. We validate this novel use of surnames to identify kinship ties by showing that (1) Americans are more likely to migrate to states where more people share their surname, and (2) people with more common surnames, having larger such networks, are more likely to migrate across states.
Selection and Impact of Modern Industrial Employment: Field Experimental Evidence from a Chinese Factory in Tanzania (with David Yang and Noam Yuchtman)