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 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 rural 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 had implemented it in the years 2001 to 2005. Lastly, we show that the program also attenuates (a) the effect of birth-year rainfall on long-run health outcomes of the surviving girls; and (b) the effect of rainfall on older women’s mortality outcomes such as dowry death.

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.

This paper evaluates the effect of women’s job opportunities on their ability to choose their own spouse and their eventual marriage quality. We find that an increase in women’s job opportunities during their year of marriage increases their ability to chose their spouse independently by 28% and also the likelihood that they have had some interaction with their spouse before marriage. Women are more likely to marry men who are more educated, are closer to their age, and grew up in a different village/town in response to a positive female labor demand shock. Lastly, we find that current female labor demand shocks are a stronger determinant of women’s household bargaining power compared to female labor demand shocks at the time of marriage.

Selected Work-in-progress:

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  • A chip off the old block: District splits, elections, and policy implementation (with Joshua D. Merfeld).
  • Access to Potable Water and Women’s Marriage Outcomes.