Working Papers:

This paper revisits the relationship between agricultural productivity shocks and excess female infant mortality in India and investigates how this relationship changes when households have access to employment opportunities outside of agriculture. When a household’s preference for sons coincides with adverse agricultural productivity shocks, households tend to disproportionately reduce care (prenatal or postnatal) for their female children. This behavior leads to a relatively more balanced sex ratio in good rainfall years and a more skewed sex ratio (in favor of boys) in bad rainfall years. We show that a workfare program in India, which decouples both wages and consumption from rainfall, attenuates the relationship between rain and the sex ratio of infants. Using a back-of-the-envelope calculation, we find that the program could have saved around 550 girls per district per year if the government implemented it in the years 2001 to 2005. We additionally show substantial impacts on long-run health outcomes of surviving girls, as rainfall no longer differentially affects girls’ height-for-age, relative to boys’, following the implementation of the program.

This paper evaluates the effect of women’s job opportunities on their ability to choose their own spouse and their eventual marriage quality. We posit a simple theory that explains that women’s job opportunities increase the value of remaining unmarried, and thereby raise the average quality of marriages entered into. We test this theory by constructing measures of gender-differentiated labor demand (Bartik, 1991) in a woman’s district at the time of marriage. We find that one standard deviation increase in women’s labor demand shock during their year of marriage increases their ability to choose their spouse independently by 9.3-12.8%. We also find that this effect is more muted among-non-Hindu women but instead they experience a greater say in the choice of their spouse even when the final decision maker is someone else. Women are more likely to marry men who are closer to their own educational attainment and age in response to better job opportunities. Lastly, women are less likely to migrate farther distances for marriage and more likely to marry men who grew up in the same village/town as their natal home in response to positive female labor demand shocks at the time of marriage.

This paper estimates the effect of access to credit on the probability of marriage of women and men in rural India. In societies where dowry payments are customary, an increase in access to credit can potentially increase the probability of marriage of girls either through an increase in income or consumption smoothing. Using a formal bank branch expansion in rural India and an instrumental variables approach, I find the following: First, the probability of marriage increases for girls; Second, this effect is concentrated during the years that households do not experience positive agricultural income shocks; Third, consistent with this result of a tighter “marriage squeeze”, that is, there are more potential brides in the marriage market than potential grooms, an increase in per capita rural bank branches also leads to an increase in dowry payments, increase in women’s distance of marriage migration, and a decrease in quality of spouse. The marriage market results are further supported by the following findings: (a) An increase in per capita rural bank branches only increases school enrollment of young girls, and therefore, fails to delay the marriage of girls who are at the highest risk of marriage; (b) An increase in per capita rural bank branches decreases labor participation of women, and therefore, fails to increase the value of women’s labor in a household.

Selected Work-in-progress:

  • Safer Streets: Effects on Female Labor Supply and Bargaining  (with Joshua D. Merfeld).
  • Access to Potable Water and Women’s Marriage Outcomes