Maulik Jagnani

Job Market Paper

This paper provides evidence that arbitrary clock conventions -- by generating large differences in when the sun sets across locations -- help determine the geographic distribution of educational attainment levels. I show later sunset reduces children's sleep: when the sun sets later, children go to bed later; by contrast, wake-up times do not respond to solar cues. Sleep-deprived students decrease study effort, consistent with a model where sleep is productivity-enhancing and increases the marginal returns of effort. Overall, school-age children exposed to later sunsets attain fewer years of education and are less likely to complete primary and middle school. Later sunsets are also associated with fewer hours of sleep and lower wages among adults. The non-poor adjust their sleep schedules when the sun sets later; sunset-induced sleep deficits are most pronounced among the poor, especially in periods when households face severe financial constraints.

Conference Presentations:

2018 WEAI Graduate Student Workshop, 2018 Young Economists Symposium/EconCon, 2018 NEUDC, 2018 ISI Delhi Conference, 2019 PacDev.

Working Papers

The Effects of Elite Public Colleges on Primary and Secondary Schooling Markets in India

with Gaurav Khanna. Paper.


We present the first estimates of the effects of higher education investments on lower levels of schooling. Using the roll-out of elite public colleges in India, we show that investments in higher education increased educational attainment among school-age children. Private schools entered districts with new elite public colleges, and students switched from public to private schools. In addition, elite public colleges crowded in investments in electricity, roads, and water services. We find suggestive evidence that public investments in infrastructure may have reduced setup costs for private schools, and consequently, travel costs for school-going children.

Conference Presentations:

2016 ISI Delhi Conference, 2017 EMCON, 2017 APPAM Annual Meetings, 2017 NEUDC, 2018 AEA Annual Meetings, 2018 PacDev.

Temperature and Human Capital in India

with Teevrat Garg and Vis Taraz. Paper.

[IGC - Ideas for India Blog]

Revise and Resubmit, Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists.

We estimate the effects of temperature on human capital production in India. We show that high temperatures reduce math and reading test scores among school-age children. Agricultural income is one mechanism driving this relationship---hot days during the growing season reduce agricultural yields and test scores with comparatively modest effects of hot days in the non-growing season. The roll-out of a workfare program, by providing a safety net for the poor, substantially weakens the link between temperature and test scores. Our results imply that that absent social protection programs, higher temperatures will have large negative impacts on human capital production of poor populations in agrarian economies.

Conference Presentations:

2016 ISI Delhi Conference, 2017 NAREA Meetings, 2017 PAA Annual Meetings, 2017 NBER Summer Institute EEE, 2017 AAEA Annual Meetings, 2017 AERE Annual Meetings, 2017 PacDev, 2017 MWIEDC, 2018 AEA Annual Meetings, 2018 CSAE.

Within-Season Producer Response to Warmer Temperatures: Defensive Investments by Kenyan Farmers

with Chris Barrett, Yanyan Liu, and Liangzhi You. Paper.

Revise and Resubmit, The Economic Journal.

We present evidence that farmers adjust agricultural inputs in response to within-season temperature variation, undertaking defensive investments to reduce the adverse agroecological impacts of warmer temperatures. Using panel data from Kenyan maize growing households, we find that higher temperatures early in the growing season increase the use of pesticides, while reducing fertilizer use. Warmer temperatures throughout the season increase household weeding effort. These adjustments arise because greater heat increases the incidence of pests, crop diseases and weeds, compelling farmers to divert investment from productivity-enhancing technologies like fertilizer to adaptive, loss-reducing, defensive inputs like pesticides and weeding labor.

Conference Presentations:

2017 AERE Annual Meetings, 2017 Environmental and Resource Economics Workshop - CU Boulder, 2018 IPWSD - Columbia University, 2018 CSAE, 2018 AAEA Annual Meetings, 2018 ICAE Annual Meetings.

(Not) Playing Favorites: An Experiment on Parental Preferences for Educational Investment

with Jim Berry and Rebecca Dizon-Ross. Paper.

How do parents choose to allocate investments across children? Do they maximize the returns to their investments (total household earnings), or equalize across their children because of an aversion to cross-sibling inequality? In this paper, we conduct the first experiment that identifies parents' preferences for investing in their children's education. The experiment exogenously varies the short-run returns to educational investments to identify the degree to which parents care about (a) maximizing total household earnings, (b) minimizing cross-sibling inequality in "outcomes'' (i.e., child-level earnings), and (c) minimizing cross-sibling inequality in "inputs'' (i.e., the investments each child receives). We find that while parents care about both maximizing total household earnings and minimizing inequality in inputs, they place a high value on equality of inputs. Parents choose exactly equal inputs 35% of the time and forego 40-50% of their potential experimental earnings due to inequality aversion in inputs. In contrast, we find no evidence that parents are averse to inequality in outcomes.

Conference Presentations:

2018 Advances with Field Experiments.

Selected Research in Progress

Temperature, Collaboration, and Incentives: Evidence from Computer Science Students

with Teevrat Garg and Elizabeth Lyons. Fieldwork complete.