Research

Published and Forthcoming

- "Lifting the Floor? Economic Development, Social Protection and the Developing World’s Poorest" (Version: August 17th 2018)- With Martin Ravallion. (R&R Journal of Development Economics)

-Abstract: It is theoretically ambiguous whether people in richer countries have a higher floor to their living standards. Nor is it clear whether social protection spending reaches the poorest and thus lifts the floor. Across countries, the paper finds that higher mean incomes come with a higher floor. The bulk of this is direct rather than via public spending on social protection. Social insurance (mainly public pensions) does the “heavy lifting” of the floor. Social assistance (mainly targeted cash-transfers) lifts the floor by only 1.5 cents per day on average, which is less than 10% of mean spending on social assistance.

Working Papers

-Abstract: Standard measures of poverty may reveal nothing about whether the poorest of the poor are being lifted-up or left-behind, yet this is a widespread concern among policy makers and citizens. The paper assesses whether public spending on social protection benefits the poorest and hence lifts the floor, and what role economic development plays. Evidence is presented for the developing world and the US. Across developing countries, a higher mean income comes with a higher floor. The bulk of this income effect is direct rather than via higher spending on social protection. That spending generally lifts the floor though this is mainly due to social insurance; on average, social assistance adds only 1.5 cents per day to the floor. Turning to the US, the paper finds that the floor has been sinking over the last 30 years, associated with an inequitable growth process. Food stamp spending partially compensates the poorest, and helped stabilize the floor in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The poorest in the US gain more from food stamps than average spending on food stamps, though the program’s impact on the floor per $ spent has fallen over time.

Featured in : VoxEU.org , WSJ Blog: Economics , Quartz , World Economic Forum

Work in Progress

-"Polling Place Location and the Costs of Voting" With Gaurav Bagwe and Allison Stashko .

-Abstract: While many aspects of voting behavior remain a puzzle, one thing we know is that voters are less likely to show up on election day if doing so is inconvenient or costly. The distance between voters and their polling place may be an important determinant in the overall cost of voting, turnout, and election and policy outcomes. However, surprisingly little is known about the location of polling places across the United States.

There are two aims to this project. First, we will harness big-data and data scraping capabilities to collect the most comprehensive dataset on polling place locations in the United States. This will allow us to answer important descriptive questions, such as how the distance to a polling place varies by an individual’s income or race.

Second, we will use this data to assess the extent to which polling place locations are influenced by political incentives. Precincts are areas that assign groups of voters to a polling place. They are similar to electoral districts in that they are constrained to have equal population size but are otherwise open to manipulation by political parties. Politicians have long been accused of moving around polling places to suppress certain voters. However, little is known about strategic reprecincting, which may look very different from strategic redistricting. We will create a formal model that will allow us to test if political parties are using polling place location to influence elections.


- "Political Budget Cycles in U.S. Congress"