We study the effect of the world’s largest school feeding program on children’s learning outcomes. Staggered implementation across different states of a 2001 Indian Supreme Court Directive mandating the introduction of free school lunches in public primary schools generates plausibly exogenous variation in program exposure across different birth cohorts. We exploit this to estimate the effect of program exposure on math and reading test scores of primary school-aged children. We find that midday meals have a dramatic positive effect on learning achievement: children with up to 5 years of primary school exposure improve their test scores by approximately 10-20%. We further investigate various channels that may account for this improvement including enrollment and nutrition-learning effects, heterogeneous responses by socio-economic status, complementary schooling inputs, and intra-household redistribution.
We study how website defaults affect consumer behavior in the domain of charitable giving. In a field experiment that was conducted on a large platform for making charitable donations over the web, we exogenously vary the default options in two distinct choice dimensions. The first pertains to the primary donation decision, namely, how much to contribute to the charitable cause. The second relates to an “add-on” decision of how much to contribute to supporting the online platform itself. We find a strong impact of defaults on individual behavior: in each of our treatments, the modal positive contributions in both choice dimensions invariably correspond to the specified default amounts. Defaults, nevertheless, have no impact on aggregate donations. This is because defaults in the donation domain induce some people to donate more and others to donate less than they otherwise would have. In contrast, higher defaults in the secondary choice dimension unambiguously induce higher contributions to the online platform.
The updated versions are available at SSRN.
This paper studies the productivity impact of a contract change for tea pluckers in an Indian plantation. The contract, implemented at the end of a three-year cycle in which contracts are generally revised, was (a) the joint outcome of negotiations between twenty unions and plantations, (b) mandated to respect a state government notification stipulating a new minimum wage for plantation workers statewide, and (c) applicable equally to all the plantations in the local region. The contract raised the baseline wage by 30% but lowered marginal incentives, by shifting the existing piece rates to higher minimum thresholds and eliminating an existing penalty per unit for low output. In the one month following the contract change, output increased by a factor between 30-60%, the exact number depending on the choice of counterfactual and the set of controls applied. This large and contrarian response to a flattening of marginal incentives is at odds with the standard model, including one that incorporates dynamic incentives, and it can only be partly accounted for by higher supervisory effort. We conclude that the increase is a “behavioral” response. Yet in subsequent months, the increase is comprehensively reversed. In fact, an entirely standard model with no behavioral or dynamic features that we estimate off the pre-change data, fits the observations four months after the contract change remarkably well. While not an unequivocal indictment of the recent emphasis on “behavioral economics,” the findings suggest that non-standard responses may be ephemeral, especially in employment contexts in which the baseline relationship is delineated by financial considerations in the first place. From an empirical perspective, therefore, it is ideal to examine responses to a contract change over an substantial period of time.
This paper provides a systematic analysis of identification in linear social interactions models. This is both a theoretical and an econometric exercise as the analysis is linked to a rigorously delineated model of interdependent decisions. We develop an incomplete information game that describes individual choices in the presence of social interactions. The equilibrium strategy profiles are linear. Standard models in the empirical social interactions literature are shown to be exact or approximate special cases of our general framework, which in turn provides a basis for understanding the microeconomic foundations of those models. We consider identification of both endogenous (peer) and contextual social effects under alternative assumptions on a priori information about network structure available to an analyst, and contrast the informational content of individual-level and aggregated data. Finally, we discuss potential ramifications for identification of endogenous group selection and differences between the information sets of analysts and agents.
Rajshri Jayaraman, Debraj Ray and Shing-Yi Wang study gender differentials in the seeking of eye care by utilising a unique dataset collected with the assistance of Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India. Jayaraman et al. assess possible gender-based discrepancies in diagnosed eye disease, conditional on seeking care.
At the end of 2001, the Indian Supreme Court issued a directive ordering states to institute school lunches – known locally as "midday meals" – in government primary schools. This paper provides a large-scale assessment of the enrollment effects of India's midday meal scheme, which offers warm lunches, free of cost, to 120 million primary school children across India and is the largest school feeding program in the world. To isolate the causal effect of the policy, we make use of staggered implementation across Indian states in government but not private schools. Using a panel data set of almost 500,000 schools observed annually from 2002 to 2004, we find that midday meals result in substantial increases in primary school enrollment, driven by early primary school responses to the program. Our results are robust to a wide range of specification tests.