The Silenced Women: Can Public Stimulate Reporting of Violence Against Women?

Research Papers 

Although violence against women (VAW) is widely prevalent and has myriad adverse effects, it is considerably under-reported. This paper examines whether public activism can stimulate disclosure of socially sensitive crimes such as rape and sexual assault. I investigate this question in a quasi-experimental setting arising out of an infamous gang-rape incident that took place in Delhi (India) on a moving bus in December 2012. The incident sparked widespread protests of an unprecedented magnitude, marking a nationwide ‘social shock’. Utilizing a difference-in-difference (DiD) strategy and exploiting regional variation in exposure to the shock, I find that the shock led to a sharp increase in reported VAW (apprrox. 27%), but no change in gender-neutral crimes such as murder, riots and robbery. Additional evidence suggests that the increase in reported VAW can be attributed to a rise in reporting rather than actual incidence. Using new incident-level micro-data - a repository of over 300,000 registered complaints that I compiled - I provide first evidence on retrospective reporting, and find a measurable decline in reporting-bias associated with cases of VAW, post-shock. These findings shed light on the role of social movements in moving the needle on disclosure norms. Further, improved reporting of VAW can in turn mitigate occurrence and its associated costs.

First Draft: January 2019. Latest Draft: World Bank PRWP (March 2021)
Coverage: Times of IndiaASE Podcast, Policy Implications Podcast
Supported by: Sigur Center for Asian Studies, International Center for Research on Women, Association for Social Economics 
Presented at: Economics of Crime Seminar (2021), ICRW (2020), SEA (2020), PACDEV (2020), MWIEDC (2020), DEVPEC (2019)WADES (2019), Gender Innovation Lab seminar series (2019), Sigur Summer Research Fellows’ Roundtable (2019)

Impact of the Philippines Conditional Cash Transfer Program on Empowerment and Gender Based Violence: Understanding Mechanisms and Measurement (with Elizaveta Perova and Ervin Dervisevic)


This paper evaluates the long-term impacts of the national conditional cash transfer program in the Philippines on beneficiaries who were exposed to it during a relatively short but potentially critical period of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. The paper estimates the impacts of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program on men and women who were enrolled in the program for up to 1.5 years when they were between ages 12.5 and 14 and are currently in their early twenties. The analysis finds evidence of impacts on marriage and fertility for women: participation in the program is associated with delay in marriage and the first birth of approximately one year and six months, respectively. No impacts are found on educational or labor market outcomes or proxies for economic welfare. Further, there is no strong and consistent evidence of changes in empowerment or gender norms.

Latest Draft: World Bank PRWP (April 2021).  

Presented at: NEUDC (2020)

Alcohol Prohibition and Crime: Unintended Consequences from Bihar (with Aaditya Dar)

While the relation between alcohol consumption and crime is well documented, less is known about whether alcohol regulation policies can effectively reduce crime. This paper investigates the effect of a recent alcohol prohibition policy - legislated in the Indian state of Bihar - on crime. The policy entailed a universal ban on all sale and consumption of alcohol and was strictly enforced statewide. Exploiting district-level variation in the baseline share of drinking population, we find that banning alcohol is strongly associated with an increase in crime, including crimes against women. We also find that the rise in crime is highest in time periods when, and in regions where, the ban was strictly enforced. Since state capacity and police supply is fixed, diverting law enforcement resources towards implementing the ban could reduce institutional bandwidth to prevent crimes. Our findings reiterate the need for prior assessment of resources before adopting "big-bang" reforms.

(New draft coming soon)

Presented at: NEUDC (2018), UEA (2018), SEA (2018)


Dynamics and Chronicity of Multidimensional and Monetary Poverty: Evidence from Ethiopia
(with Diana Ngo)

While the multidimensional nature of poverty is increasingly recognized, there is a continued interest in monetary poverty. Consequently, past scholarship has focused on describing interactions between the two. However, less is known whether these interactions result in practical policy differences for poverty targeting. Using Young Lives panel data from Ethiopia, we study the incidence, dynamics, and correspondence of five key types of poverty: (i) consumption poverty (ii) multidimensional poverty, (iii) health poverty, (iv) education poverty and (v) living standards poverty, in a static as well as chronic setting. We find imperfect yet meaningful overlap between these measures and show that poverty targeting can be improved by using measures defined for one poverty type, say multi-dimensional, to identify the poor as defined by another, say consumption. Importantly, we find that the overlap among all poverty measures improves in a chronic setting, yielding 18% to 32% gains in poverty targeting. We also identify household-level correlates of poverty and find modest overlap between determinants of different poverty types. Households that reside in rural areas, have high dependency ratio, and are headed by a female member are significantly more likely to be poor, across all poverty types. These findings indicate that policymakers can focus on a few key characteristics to target people who are deprived in multiple monetary or non-monetary dimensions for longer or shorter durations.

(New draft coming soon)