Research Projects by Region

Caste Politics and Local Election Outcomes in Rural India

Munshi uses data from a village in India to examine the role of caste politics in determining local election outcomes in rural India and how these elections affect the provision of basic services, including lighting and sanitation. He finds that if an ethnic group in a particular political unit is sufficiently large it can solve political commitment problems that might otherwise cause people to vote for candidates who on average share their views, but are not otherwise qualified or capable.

Dowry and Marriage Age in India

Sautmann looks at the connection between population growth, age at marriage and dowry in India. Using an economic framework that incorporates search frictions she finds evidence for the so-called marriage squeeze hypothesis, the theory that population growth together with a large age difference at marriage can cause a surplus of women and lead to increased dowry payments.

Food Assistance and Policy Options in India

Nagavarapu initiated an innovative project along with one of Andrew Foster’s former students on the public distribution system that allocates food rations to the Indian poor. Preliminary work provides a strong circumstantial case that the rations of individuals with low social influence are being diverted by shopkeepers to the black market. Nagavarapu is now working with an NGO that is implementing a randomized trial that incorporates an alternative source of supply for these rations.

Governance and Inequality in Indian Cities

Patrick Heller, Ashutosh Varshney (Brown University)

Indian cities face tremendous challenges of governance because of entrenched inequalities and accelerating urban migration. Yet the social science literature on urban governance in India is conspicuous by its absence. This interdisciplinary team proposes to fill this gap through a long-term research project that is motivated by three fundamental questions. First, what are the predominant patterns of inequality in urban India and how is inequality structured? Second, how are Indian cities governed and how do these patterns of governance both reflect and impact patterns of inequality?

Groundwater and Land Management in Rural India

Foster has a series of projects on groundwater in rural India that also focus on issues of scale in agriculture. A central question in this body of work is how the spatial distribution of the population affects the rate of aquifer depletion. In joint work with a former student he finds surprisingly that water markets are more likely to arise in areas where water is not scarce. He also finds that whether water buying or selling increases or decreases aquifer depletion depends in part on the relative sizes of neighboring farms.

Health and Air Quality Regulation in Developing Countries

Foster has several projects looking at the relationship between air quality and health. In Delhi, India, he has a project that was initially directed at identifying the effects of a court mandate to enforce vehicle regulations with regard to the use of compressed natural gas (CNG). This study involved the systematic collection of ground data on air quality in combination with a household-level survey that included spirometry-based measures of respiratory health.

Using Community Participation to Improve the Health System in South India

Co-directors with studentsCo-directors with studentsAt the heart of this project on tuberculosis treatment in India is the simple and practical question of whether community volunteers can be used instead of professional monitors to ensure drug-therapy compliance; but the investigators use this idea in order to explore broader social science questions, including the extent to which caste membership creates effective generalized (as opposed to specific) reciprocity among its members.