Ridwan Karim

Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Lazaridis School of Business & Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University

Research Interests: Political Economy, Development Economics, International Trade

CV: Click Here

Contact: rkarim[at]wlu.ca

I am an Assistant Professor in the Lazaridis School of Business & Economics at Wilfrid Laurier Universiy. I received my PhD in Economics from the University of Toronto in 2019 and my MA in Economics from York University in 2012.

Voter-Buying, Electoral Reform, and Health Outcomes in Brazil

(Job Market Paper) Latest Version

Electoral fraud is often a problem for new democracies. I study the consequences of voter-buying, defined as the act of inducing outsiders to fraudulently transfer their voter registration across jurisdictions in exchange for private benefits. Specifically, I explore the effects of Brazil's 2007 voter re-registration reform which was intended to curb voter-buying. Exploiting a fuzzy regression discontinuity design in the targeting of municipalities assigned to the reform, I examine the response of mayoral elections, public expenditures and socioeconomic outcomes to the imposition of exogenous barriers to voter-buying. The reform led to an increase in political competition and a rise in healthcare expenditures, a programmatic public good salient to poor voters. The increased investments in health are reflected in greater utilization of health services and better health outcomes: a 6.6% increase in prenatal visits, a 15% decrease in the incidence of low birth-weight, and 5.3% reduction in the infant mortality rate. Consistent with imported voters being more pivotal in less populous municipalities, I find the impacts are larger in targeted municipalities that are small, and provide additional evidence that restrictions on voter-buying are the main driver of my results. I also provide evidence for more positive selection of politicians, and show that unintended disenfranchisement and incumbent reputation effects are not driving my results.

Harvesting Rainfall: Evaluating Impact of Cisterns on Health Outcomes in Northeast Brazil

(with Paul Gertler and Marco Gonzalez-Navarro)

Water scarcity and water quality are acute problems for millions of rural households, affecting their health and economic outcomes. We assess the impact of a new water technology - residential water cisterns in rural households residing in the drought-prone areas of Northeast Brazil in 55 municipalities across 9 states. The randomized control trial involved the construction of a tank of 16,000 liters of reinforced concrete for residential use in households that do not have other sources of piped water, which fills during the rainy season with enough water to cook and drink during the dry season. The research design allows us to study water consumption by means of the sensors installed in a random sample of beneficiary households. We analyze water quality, subjective and objective measures of physical and mental well-being, time-use patterns and consumption outcomes due to the intervention.

Output Volatility, Composition of Trade, and Transmission of Economic Shocks Across Countries

(with Andrey Stoyanov) Link to Paper

In this paper we investigate how supply and demand shocks in one country affect output volatility in other countries. While the evidence for cross-country transmission of demand shocks is mixed, we find that volatile supply in one country leads to larger imports and output volatility in other countries. As a result, the effect of trade openness on output volatility is highly heterogeneous across countries and depends on the composition of their trade. Those countries whose imports originate in economies with volatile supply experience a greater impact of trade on output volatility.

Trade Boomers: Evidence from the Commodities-for-Manufactures Boom in Brazil

(with Jeff Chan)

China’s growing prominence as a trade superpower has placed competitive pressure on manufacturing industries in Brazil, while simultaneously bolstering demand for its commodities. We investigate the effects of this so-called manufactures-for-commodities boom on Brazilian birth outcomes from 2000-2010. Exploiting exogenous variation in patterns of trade growth with China across different regions within Brazil, we find that both import and export growth led to higher birth weights for babies, and lower birth rates. Additional evidence is consistent with income effects playing a role in explaining our results, while ruling out better provision of healthcare and changes to household composition as mechanisms. We also explore changes in trade-induced pollution levels as a potential mechanism. Our findings indicate that increased import and export growth can improve infant health, highlighting another potential benefit from trade liberalization.

Oil Royalties and the Provision of Public Education in Brazil

(with Jeff Chan)

This paper examines how resource-based windfalls to Brazilian municipalities’ revenues affects their provision of education. We exploit a feature of Brazilian legislation that mandates that revenues accrued through oil production must be shared with municipalities that are judged to be owed royalties through a series of exogenously determined criteria and formulae. The as-if random distribution of oil revenues to municipalities allow us to investigate the causal relationship between oil royalties and provision of public education in Brazil. Focusing only on municipalities that receive oil royalties between 2007 and 2014 and using within-municipality variation in oil revenues per capita, we find that receiving more oil royalties translates into more teachers, classrooms, and schools per capita. Importantly, these effects are present only for municipally funded schools and not for federal, state, or private schools. Our main results are driven by pre-schools and elementary schools for those aged 14 and under, and from schools located in their own school building. We show that teachers hired are disproportionately young and white. Finally, we also examine if oil royalties are associated with school characteristics such as the presence of computer labs or filtered water. Our findings suggest that resource-based windfalls can have beneficial impacts on the provision of education by increasing educational resources in a municipality.

Works in Progress:

Campaign Spending Limits and Voter-Buying in Brazil