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

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 regions that were more exposed witnessed a sharp increase in reported VAW, 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.

Supported by: Sigur Center for Asian Studies, International Center for Research on Women, Association for Social Economics 

Presented at: DEVPEC (2019) WADES (2019), Gender Innovation Lab seminar series (2019), Sigur Summer Research Fellows’ Roundtable (2019)

Designing Policy in Weak States: Unintended Consequences of Alcohol Prohibition in Bihar (with Aaditya Dar)


This study investigates the impact of a recent alcohol-prohibition policy on crime against women in the Indian state of Bihar, where nearly 1.5 percent of the world’s population lives and is one of the poorest regions in South Asia. Applying a DiD strategy on district-month crime panel and exploiting regional variation in baseline alcohol consumption, we find that the alcohol ban led to an increase in rape and kidnapping of women. Further, we find suggestive evidence on regulation-induced substitution; due to constrained state capacity and fixed police supply, diverting law enforcement resources towards implementing the prohibition policy reduced institutional bandwidth to prevent other violent (and socially costlier) crimes. Such evidences caution us against enacting ‘big bang reforms’ without prior assessment of requisite resources.

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


Dynamics and Chronicity of Multidimensional and Monetary Poverty: A Multi-Country Study (with Diana Ngo)

[Work in Progress]

In recent times, there has been a paradigm shift in how we conceptualize and measure poverty; transitioning from a uni-dimensional approach relying on income and consumption to a multi-dimensional approach (MD), which counts deprivations across multiple socio-economic themes. Given that the formalization of multi-dimensional poverty is relatively new, much remains to be explored. This paper attempts to make two important aspects: (i) estimate correspondence between monetary and MD poverty, both at a given time (contemporaneous poverty) and over a period of time (chronic poverty), (ii) examine characteristics of households who are identified as poor, based on different concepts and measures of poverty. We provide empirical evidence using rich longitudinal data from four developing countries - Ethiopia, Peru, Vietnam and India. Findings from this study can aid our understanding of poverty and how it may differ across contexts and populations. More specifically, it can also help detect populations who are living in greatest and longest deprivation.

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

[Fieldwork in progress]

This study evaluates the impact of a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in the Philippines, i.e. Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P). Past CCT evaluations have largely focused on examining effects for women and children on immediate outcomes that are directly linked to CCT conditionalities, such as health, nutrition and education. Using a combination of DiD strategy and regression discontinuity design, this study seeks to extend the scholarship on this topic in three important ways: (i) it investigates the effect of CCT on a broader set of outcomes such as empowerment, wellbeing and exposure to gender-based violence (GBV), (ii) it assesses the effects on men, i.e. partners of grantees/beneficiaries, and (iii) it examines sustained impacts of CCT by tracking individuals who received transfers in their childhood and adolescence. Apart from distilling final effects, the study also aims to identify predominant mechanisms of impact. Ascertaining these channels can help in modifying CCT programs – a widely used social protection policy - to maximize impact across multiple facets of development.


Alongside, this study aims to assess relative effectiveness of indirect questioning methods such as list experiments and audio computer-assisted interviews (ACASI), compared to the conventional method of face-to-face direct questioning (FTFDQ). Findings from this study component can provide pertinent evidence on data collection techniques that can be used to increase disclosure of GBV, and thereby improve estimates on GBV prevalence.