Natalie Bau

Associate Professor

Department of Economics



I am an associate professor at UCLA, a CEPR research fellow, a NBER research associate, a former CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar, and a recipient of the Sloan Fellowship.  My work focuses on fundamental drivers of economic growth, such as human capital and productivity, in low-income countries. I am particularly interested in the role of culture and the industrial organization of education markets.  


Research Statement

Preliminary Schedule for 2023 UCSD-UCLA Culture & Economic Development Conference

Working Papers

Heterogeneity in School Value-Added and the Private Premium (with Tahir Andrabi, Jishnu Das, and Asim Khwaja)
Formerly "Are Bad Public Schools Public 'Bads?' Test Scores and Civic Values in Public and Private Schools" and "Private Schooling, Learning, and Civic Values in a Low-Income Country"

Revision Requested by American Economic Review

Traditional Institutions in Modern Times: Dowries as Pensions When Sons Migrate (with Gaurav Khanna, Corinne Low, and Alessandra Voena)

Revision Requested by Quarterly Journal of Economics

Human Capital Investment in the Presence of Child Labor (with Martin Rotemberg, Manisha Shah, and Bryce Steinberg)


Crowding in Private Quality: The Equilibrium Effects of Public Spending in Education [Online Appendix] (with  Tahir Andrabi,  Jishnu Das, Naureen Karachiwalla, and Asim Khwaja)

Accepted by Quarterly  Journal of Economics

Related popular writing: VoxDev

Affirmative Action and Pre-College Human Capital (with Mitra Akhtari and Jean-William Laliberté)

AEJ: Applied Economics, 2024, vol 16, no. 1.

Culture and the Family (with Raquel Fernández)
Handbook of Family Economics, 2023, vol 1.

Formerly  "The Family as a Social Institution"

Misallocation and Capital Market Integration: Evidence From India (with Adrien Matray)
Econometrica, 2023, vol 91, no. 1.
Related popular writing: VoxDev (re-posted on Ideas for India), VoxEU

Note on "Measuring Misallocation Without Lognormality" (with Adrien Matray)

Estimating An Equilibrium Model of Horizontal Competition in Education  [Online Appendix]
Journal of Political Economy, 2022,  vol. 130, no.  7.
Formerly "School Competition and Product Differentiation"
Related popular writing: World Bank Development Impact Blog, VoxDev, UCLA Research Spotlight

Women's Well-being During a Pandemic and its Containment (with Gaurav Khanna, Corinne Low, Manisha Shah, Sreyashi Sharmin, and Alessandra Voena) 

Journal of Development Economics, 2022, vol. 156.

Popular writing: Ideas for India, VoxEU

Data: The data from our Covid-19 survey are freely available at the IZA data repository. Please cite Bau, Khanna, Low, Shah, Sharmin and Voena (2022) if you use these data.

Can Policy Change Culture? Government Pension Plans and Traditional Kinship Practices [Online Appendix]
American Economic Review, 2021,  vol.  111, no. 6.
Formerly "Can Policy Crowd Out Culture?" and  "Cultural Norms, Strategic Behavior, and Human Capital Investment."
Coverage:  World Bank Development Impact Blog, VoxEU, AEA Podcast

New Evidence on Learning Trajectories in a Low-Income Setting (with Andres Yi Chang and Jishnu Das).
International Journal of Educational Development, 2021,  vol. 84.
Related popular writing: Let's Talk Development, Dawn

Negotiating a Better Future: How Interpersonal Skills Facilitate Inter-Generational Investment (With Nava Ashraf, Corinne Low, and Kathleen McGinn)
Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2020, vol. 135, no. 2.
Coverage: NPR, World Bank Development Impact Blog, Faculti Interview

Bride Price and Female Education (with Nava Ashraf, Nathan Nunn, and Alessandra Voena),
Journal of Political Economy, 2020, vol. 28, no. 2.
Related popular writing: IGC blog, The Conversation, CIFAR newsletter
Additional Data: Following JPE policy, replication files are available on the JPE website.  Additional data on the number of public schools established in each district of  Zambia by year can be downloaded here. Counts are based on 2013 administrative data from the Zambian Ministry of Education and may not include schools that closed before 2013.  Please cite Ashraf, Bau, Nunn, and Voena (2020) if you use these data.

Teacher Value-Added in a Low-Income Country (with Jishnu Das),
AEJ: Economic Policy, 2020, vol. 12, no. 1.
Formerly "The Misallocation of Pay and Productivity in the Public Sector: Evidence from the Labor Market for Teachers."
Working paper with more discussion of contract teacher policy.
Related popular writing: VoxDev, World Bank Digest, The Economist