Employment and Income Shock during COVID-19 lockdown in a Metropolitan city in India, with Akshaya Vijayalakshmi and Jeemol Unni, The Indian Economic Journal, Volume 71, 2023

The COVID-19 crisis had a harsher impact on women globally, as they were disproportionately represented in sectors offering low wages, few benefits and least secure jobs. We examined the economic impact of loss of employment and incomes on workers in relatively low income households during and after the first stringent lockdown—April to June 2020—in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. We analyse employment impact using a logistic regression and impact on incomes using a Fixed Effect OLS regression. We find that the impact on women workers was greater in terms of loss of employment and income. Women had clearly not resumed work at the same rate as men after lockdown was eased. We address the specific question, ‘why were women less likely to resume work after the shock of lockdown?’ We found that care responsibilities did not explain later resumption of work, but the place of work did. In addition we address the question ‘which segments of workers suffered greater income loss?’ We analyse these questions for wage and self-employed workers and by prominent occupations in the sample. We find that while wage-employed workers resumed work later, they suffered less income loss than the self-employed. We attempt to explain this paradox.

How COVID-19 lockdown has impacted the sanitary pads distribution among adolescent girls and women in India, with Karan Babbar and Niharika Rustagi, Journal of Social Issues, 2022

This paper empirically explores the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying lockdown on adolescent girls’ and women's access to sanitary pads in India. We have used the National Health Mission's Health Management Information System (NHM-HMIS) data for the study, which provides data on pads' distribution on a district level. The empirical strategy used in the study exploits the variation of districts into red, orange, and green zones as announced by the Indian Government. To understand how lockdown severity impacts access to sanitary pads, we used a difference-in-difference (DID) empirical strategy to study sanitary pads' access in red and orange zones compared to green zones. We find clear evidence of the impact of lockdown intensity on the provision of sanitary pads, with districts with the strictest lockdown restrictions suffering the most. Our study highlights how sanitary pads distribution was overlooked during the pandemic, leaving girls and women vulnerable to managing their menstrual needs. Thus, there is a requirement for strong policy to focus on the need to keep sanitary pads as part of the essential goods to ensure the needs of the girls and women are met even in the midst of a pandemic, central to an inclusive response.

Domestic workers and sexual harassment in India: Examining preferred response strategies, with Akshaya Vijayalakshmi and Vaibhavi Kulkarni, World Development, Vol 155, 2022

The purpose of this research is to understand how women working as domestic workers, who are part of the informal sector, are likely to respond to sexual harassment incidents. Unlike the organized sector, women in informal and nontraditional workspaces often do not have access to formal organizational mechanisms for lodging complaints, thus making it important to understand their response strategies. To understand their likely response to sexual harassment in the informal sector, we conducted a detailed survey of 387 domestic workers in India where we presented each respondent with eleven possible sexual harassment scenarios and nine possible responses to each such scenario. We find that (a) women are most likely to employ strategies that are self-focused and with minimal support from friends/family. (b) Women complain to authorities/family only when they can furnish evidence of harassment. (c) Women are not likely to complain to their female supervisor under any circumstances. And (d) unsurprisingly, poorer, and migrant women are likely to be more silent than women who are relatively better-off about harassment. The results, in brief, show a distrust of the current systems. By examining this informal and unorganized workspace, we offer a stronger theoretical understanding of employee responses to sexual harassment and provide practical suggestions.

How macroeconomic shocks impact employment: comparison of Gujarat with states in Western India, with Jeemol Unni, Journal of Social Economic Development, Vol 23, 199–211 (2021).

In this paper, we discuss the impact of the macroeconomic shock of demonetisation on employment in the five Western states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. We analyse the impact of the macroeconomic shocks on workforce participation rates (WPR) in the states. We do this separately for overall and separately for men and women. We use the Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy’s (CMIE) Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS), which allows us to look at monthly workforce participation rates of men and women in the age group of 15–64 years for the period from January 2014 to December 2019. Overall, the trendline structural break figures of the shock of demonetisation were corroborated by the regression results. Demonetisation had a significant negative impact on WPR of all workers in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and on male WPR in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. A significant negative impact of demonetisation on women’s WPR was corroborated by the regression equations for Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Employment for all, males and females in Gujarat was not significantly affected by the shock of demonetisation. It appeared that workers in Gujarat were better able to negotiate the shock.

Breaking “bad” links: Impact of Companies Act 2013 on the Indian Corporate Network, with Mayank Aggarwal and Anindya Chakrabarti, Social Networks, Volume 62, July 2020

Board interlock networks are known to exhibit concentration of influence by a small group of elites. In this paper, we study a policy intervention aiming to curb this influence. We analyze the evolution of Indian board interlocking network from 2008 to 2016, a period that covers pre- and post-enactment of government regulation (Companies Act, 2013) limiting the number of directorships held by a single director. We utilize this enactment as an exogenous shock to analyze its effects on architecture of the network. To quantify the changes in cohesiveness, we extract the core-periphery structure in terms of the k-cores of the network and study its evolution over the years. Impacts of the regulation are strikingly demonstrated by fracture of the innermost core of the pre-regulation period into two new cores in the post-regulation period. At the macroscopic level, we find substantial changes in the degree distribution as the network became more egalitarian in terms of connectivity from an erstwhile highly unequal degree distribution. While the actual degree and coreness of companies had undergone substantial changes, we find that relative ranks in terms of degree or coreness of individual companies were very persistent. Empirically, we find that the same social and economic factors that determine the degree/coreness of a company before and after the regulation. We conclude that the regulation reduced concentration of elite control through changes in the core-periphery organization and degree distribution, while mobility of the companies across the network was low and stable throughout the entire period.

More is Not Always Better: the Case of Anti-Terrorism Security, with Konrad Grabiszewski, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Volume 63, 2019

Can counterterrorism security be counterproductive? We argue that it can be when the at-risk population acts strategically. We model a two-stage game where the government first chooses the defensive security level for a public place. The second stage is a simultaneous-move game with terrorist choosing terror effort and members of the population deciding whether or not to attend the public place. Our key measure of the efficiency of the counterterrorism security is the expected number of casualties. Under very standard and general assumptions, we show that it is possible that more security leads to an increase in that number. This is because increasing security both discourages and encourages the terrorist. On the one hand, more security makes a successful terror attack less likely (discouragement). On the other hand, more security motivates more people to attend the public place which makes the attack more valuable to the terrorist (encouragement).

Group Identity in a Network Formation Game with Cost Sharing, Journal of Public Economic Theory, Volume 20, June 2018 (working paper version)

(An earlier version co-authored with with Jurjen J. A. Kamphorst was called "Choosing `Me' and `My Friends': Identity in a Non-Cooperative Network Formation Game with Cost Sharing")

This paper introduces the choice of group identity, which comprises of characteristics and commitments to these characteristics, in a network formation model where links costs are shared. Players want to link to the largest group given that linking costs for players of the same (different) characteristic are decreasing (increasing) in their commitments. The equilibrium concepts used are Nash equilibrium as well as one that looks for stability allowing for bilateral negotiations. Conditions are shown under which the endogenous choice of characteristics and commitments allow for multiple groups with segregated or connected networks. When group identity is partly endogenous, such that characteristics are .fixed and players only choose commitment, it is shown that the equilibrium population commitment pro.file dictates whether the resulting network is segregated or connected. When group identity is fully endogenous, it is shown that multiple groups and segregated networks are possible equilibrium outcomes but such outcomes are not stable unless the group size additionally affects the costs of link formation.

Networks of Information Exchange: Are Link Formation Decisions Strategic?, Economics Letters, Volume 162, January 2018                                  

This paper presents an empirical investigation into whether the decision to form a link with a node takes into account how well connected that node is. Given data in the form of a random sample from a network, this paper proposes a novel way to measure the degree of a node to adjust for mismeasurement and also controls for the endogeneity of this variable. It is shown that in fact the probability of forming a link with a node is increasing in the links received by that node but decreasing or unaffected by the links made by that node.

Ethnic Inequality: Theory and Evidence from Formal Education in Nigeria, with Blessing U. Mberu and Roland Pongou, Economic Development and Cultural Change, Volume 64, July 2016  

We study the causes of inequality in human capital accumulation across ethnic and religious groups. A model in which agents decide how much time to invest in human capital versus ethnic capital shows that the demand for human capital is affected positively by parental and group's older cohort human capital, and negatively by group size. Two identical groups may diverge in human capital accumulation, with the difference mostly occurring among their low-ability members. Furthermore, group and ethnic fragmentation increases the demand for human capital. We validate these predictions using household data from Nigeria where ethnicity and religion are the primary identity cleavages. We document persistent ethnic and religious inequality in educational attainment. Members of ethnic groups that historically converted to Christianity outperform those whose ancestors converted to Islam. Consistent with theory, there is little difference between the high-ability members of these groups, but low-ability members of historically Muslim groups choose Koranic education as an alternative to formal education, even when formal education is free. Moreover, more religiously fragmented ethnic groups fare better, and local ethnic diversity increases the demand for formal education. Our analysis sheds light on the political context that underlines the recent violent opposition to "western education" in the country.

Homophily and Community Structure in Networks, Journal of Public Economic Theory, Volume 18, April 2016 (working paper version)                                      

This paper proposes a strategy to estimate the community structure for a network accounting for empirically established fact that communities and links are formed based on homophily. It presents a maximum likelihood approach to rank the community structures where the set of possible community structures depends on the set of salient characteristics and the probability of a link between the nodes varies according to the characteristics of the two nodes. This approach has good large sample properties which lead to a practical algorithm for estimation. To exemplify the approach it is applied to data collected from four village clusters in Ghana.

Identity and Fragmentation in Networks, Mathematical Social Sciences, Volume 71, September 2014 (working paper version)             

This paper examines the role of identity in the fragmentation of networks by incorporating the choice of commitment to identity characteristics into a non-cooperative network formation game. The Nash network features divisions based on identity, with layers within these divisions.Using the refinement of strictness I find structures where stars of highly committed players are linked together by less committed players.

Transfer of information by an informed trader, Finance Research Letters, Volume 10, Issue 2, June 2013

This paper analyzes the effect of the transfer of information by an informed strategic trader (owner) to another strategic player (buyer). It shows that while the owner will never fully divulge his information, he may transfer a noisy signal of his information to the buyer. With such a transfer, the owner loses some of his informational superiority and yet increases his trading profit. I also show that if the transfer can be made to more than one buyer, then, the owner’s profit is increasing in the number of other buyers to whom the transfer is made.