Research

Accepted and Forthcoming Papers

Additional Coverage: The many dimensions of mobile money: Evidence from Bangladesh, VoxDev, 09/21/2018

Abstract: Rapid urbanization is reshaping economies and intensifying spatial inequalities. In Bangladesh, we experimentally introduced mobile banking to very poor rural households and family members who had migrated to the city, testing whether mobile technology can reduce inequality by modernizing traditional ways to transfer money. One year later, for active mobile banking users, urban-to-rural remittances increased by 26% of the baseline mean. Rural consumption increased by 7.5% and extreme poverty fell. Rural households borrowed less, saved more, sent additional migrants, and consumed more in the lean season. Urban migrants experienced less poverty and saved more, but bore costs, reporting worse health.

Working Papers

Finalist, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Dissertation Prize 2019, University of Chicago

Additional Coverage: Choosing among children: Early childhood investments in India, Ideas For India, 03/11/2019.  

Abstract: The overall impacts of early childhood programs depend on both the direct impacts on exposed cohorts, as well as the indirect impacts that arise due to intra-household reallocation of parental investments. To study these effects, I collected historical administrative data from the rollout of the Integrated Child Development Services program in India, the largest early childhood development program in the world. Children exposed to the program were significantly less likely to be malnourished and more likely to be able to read and do math. Adults exposed to the program when young showed significant improvements in various measures of health. They were also significantly more likely to be literate, employed, and earn a higher wage. However, I show that parents reallocated their investments towards children exposed to an increase in program intensity, as evidenced by negative spillovers on siblings. This crowd-out of investments is particularly severe for girls. Accounting for the negative spillovers on siblings reduces the internal rate of return of the program by approximately 9%.  [Click here for Poster]

Family Networks and the Digital Divide: Experimental Evidence on Mobile Banking Adoption in Bangladesh (with Jean N. Lee, Jonathan Morduch and Abu S. Shonchoy) [New draft coming soon]

Abstract: Like much digital technology, mobile banking is a network service. It’s most valuable when employers, shops, family, and friends are also part of the network.  Adoption patterns are thus shaped by how, where, and when the technology is supplied and marketed. We investigate adoption decisions across the two main nodes in family networks: families and their adult children who have left home. In our context, we focus on urban migrant workers and their rural-based families in Bangladesh, and we experimentally test for the importance of two related interventions on the adoption of the bKash mobile banking service. In one treatment, we randomize whether the marketing of bKash is pro-social: specifically, whether it involves describing to migrants that their originating families are also interested in adoption. In the second treatment, we randomly vary whether, within originating household-migrant pairs, migrants are trained to adopt bKash before or after their originating households. Both interventions increased adoption rates relative to individualistic interventions, but the interventions had different and highly gendered impacts. In our study population, the pro-social marketing raised initial adoption rates by 11 percentage points for men but had a negligible impact on women. Among women, the impact occurred only when their originating families had been visited and trained to use mobile banking before they were. In this case, initial adoption rates increased by 19 percentage points. The results suggest that thematically similar interventions can have different implications for gender gaps in technology adoption.

Selected Research in Progress

When is Performance Feedback Effective? Experimental Evidence from India's Integrated Child Development Services Program  [In the field]

Abstract: Absenteeism and low morale are common problems among providers of public health services in developing countries. Performance feedback has often been suggested as a way to overcome such problems, with mixed results. Through a large cross-randomized intervention, I ask the following: (1) Do workers change their behavior in response to feedback on their own performance, in addition to feedback on the performance of workers they regularly interact with? (2) When is such feedback particularly effective? (3) Do key outcomes such as malnutrition change as a result of changes in worker behavior? I ask these questions in the setting of India’s Integrated Child Development Services program, which provides healthcare services to children under six years of age. The proposed experiment is low-cost and can easily be scaled up.

Schooling, Health, and Willingness to Pay for Solar Lanterns in Bangladesh (with Abu S. Shonchoy)  [Fieldwork complete]

Abstract: Beliefs over the effectiveness of new technologies play an important role in the technology adoption decisions of households in developing countries. To generate exogenous variation in these beliefs, we conducted a randomized field experiment in un-electrified areas of Bangladesh. The experiment introduced households in the treatment group to solar lanterns and leased the product to households for a period of sixteen months. We find that treated households substituted to solar lanterns from kerosene-based lighting products. However, children in treated households did not perform better in school examinations. Furthermore, the lanterns had no noticeable improvement in respiratory symptoms among treated students. Consequently, we find that households in the treatment group revised their beliefs on the impacts of the lanterns downward after the lease period, displaying significantly lower willingness to pay for lanterns in comparison to households in the control group.

©2020 by Saravana Ravindran.