with Rohini Somanathan and Hemanshu Kumar

Review of Development Economics (2022)

Abstract: Many school children in ethnically diverse countries live in multilingual environments where the medium of instruction in school differs from their mother tongue. We conduct a field experiment in a multiethnic village in northern India to study the relative importance of linguistic distance and neighborhood isolation in the acquisition of language and mathematics skills in elementary school. The village has two sizable ethnic groups speaking languages very different from the medium of school instruction. Students attempt a set of mazes and take tests in reading and mathematics. We find that performance in language-dependent tasks relative to mazes is lower for children whose mother tongue is different from the medium of instruction only if their ethnic group is also residentially segregated. Language policy in most countries has traditionally favored either mother-tongue instruction or assimilation into mainstream language and culture. Our results suggest that there may be value in a more nuanced approach that flexibly combines some instructional support in a mother tongue for those who need it, with policies that encourage contact with speakers of dominant languages to benefit from peers and social networks. 

Women's Leadership in Fintech: Cross-country Evidence

with Ratna Sahay, Purva Khera and Sumiko Ogawa

CESifo Economic Studies, Forthcoming

IMF Working Paper No. 2022/150


2021:  CEBRA Annual Meeting at MIT Golub Center for Finance and Policy

2020: Monetary and Capital Market Forum at International Monetary Fund

Media Coverage: Finance & Development Magazine

Abstract: While digital financial services have made access to finance easier, faster, and less costly, helping to broaden digital financial inclusion, its impact on gender gaps varies across countries. Moreover, women leaders in the fintech industry, although growing, remain scarce. This paper explores the interaction between ‘women’ and ‘fintech’ by examining: (i) the role of women leaders on firm-level performance in the fintech industry; and (ii) the determinants of gender gaps in the usage of digital services to better understand the cross-country differences. Results indicate that greater gender diversity in the executive board is associated with better performance of fintech firms. With regard to determinants of the gender gaps in the usage of digital financial services, we find that higher financial and digital literacy of women is associated with lower gender gaps in digital financial inclusion, and that socio-cultural factors also play a key role.

Female Leadership in India: Firm Performance and Culture

with Ratna Sahay, Navya Srivastava

India Policy Forum, Forthcoming


2024:  India Policy Forum

Media Coverage: Ideas for India, The Wire, The Times of India, The Economic Times

Abstract: Globally, women’s share in corporate leadership has been steadily rising, including in India. The female director mandate under The Companies Act (2013) in India marked a significant step toward gender-inclusive corporate leadership, requiring listed firms to have at least one woman on their board. Within a year, the percentage of listed firms without women on board plummeted from 53 percent to less than 10 percent. Despite this progress, India still lags in the share of women in middle and senior management roles at only 17 percent, compared to nearly 33 percent for the world. This paper documents the status of gender-inclusive corporate leadership and uses the woman director mandate in the Act to study its relationship with firm outcomes, including financial performance and corporate culture in India. Interestingly we find that firms, on average, were appointing more women than mandated by the Act, suggesting the favorable impact of the current government’s signal to foster women-led development and the positive experience gained by firms. At the same time, newly appointed women were younger and more educated than their male counterparts and their average directorship “stretch factor” increased significantly compared to men. Combining personnel-level data from NSE-listed firms with firm performance data and employing a reverse difference-in-difference econometric strategy, we find that having at least one woman on board is associated with higher economic performance, financial stability, and lower financial risk. Additionally, using almost 400,000 employee reviews scraped from a company review platform, we find that higher shares of women in board positions correlate positively with employee ratings and sentiment scores only when firms also hire women in top management positions. This analysis highlights the business case of appointing more women at the top.

Working Papers


2024: Econometric Society Asia Meet, LEAP-Summer School, CLEAN-LSE Seminar, NYU Abu Dhabi, Midwest International Economic Development Conference (MWIEDC), IEB: 3rd Workshop on Public Policies, AMSE-International Conference on Development Economics, IIT-Kanpur (forthcoming)

2023: Asia Meet of The Econometric Society (AMES), Annual Conference on Economic Growth and Development (ACEGD),  Workshop on the Economics of Crime for Junior Scholars (WEC Jr.)

2022: The North East Universities Development Consortium (NEUDC),  Association for Public Policy and Management (APPAM),  Southern Economic Association (SEA),  All-Cal Labor Economics Conference (ACLEC),  Cal State University Long Beach, GPACS Colloquium

Podcasts: Ideas of India

Abstract: Does media coverage of sexual crimes affect judicial decision-making? I answer this question using rich administrative data on the universe of cases filed in lower courts in India. I combine this court data with high-frequency daily district-level media coverage of sexual crime events that are unrelated to the case on trial. Using a generalized difference-in-difference model, I find that judges are more likely to convict individuals charged with sexual crimes that carry low punishments. I find suggestive evidence that a central mechanism behind this result is heightened judicial scrutiny of these cases in response to greater media coverage. I do not find an impact on the more serious sexual crimes that may involve forensic evidence. These findings highlight the role of media as an extra-legal factor impacting judicial decision-making processes.

IZA Working Paper DP 17106 

Under Review


2020: Winter School at Delhi School of Economics,  Association for Public Policy and Management (APPAM), Southern Economic Association (SEA), Western Economic Association International (WEAI)

Abstract: Employment opportunities for women have important implications for human capital and health investments in their children. The objective of this paper is to estimate the causal impact of maternal employment opportunities on infant health. I study this in the context of a trade liberalization policy in the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh in 2005, which generated spatial and temporal variation in the openings and location of garment factories. I find that the expansion of this sector increased labor market participation among women, increased their age at childbearing and improved neonatal survival rates of children. I also find evidence that the garment industry expansion is associated with increased health inputs for the children, particularly increased breastfeeding. The results are most pronounced for boys.

Impact of Female Politicians on School Construction: Evidence from Rural India


2021:  All-Cal Labor Economics Conference (ACLEC)

Abstract:  Participation of women in politics is known to bring in more pro-social, redistributive, and welfare-improving policies, especially for children in terms of their health and education outcomes. In this paper, I look at the impact of female politicians on school construction in rural India. Using a close election regression discontinuity design, I find that the growth in new schools in constituencies where a woman is elected is no different from that in constituencies where a man is elected. Using descriptive data on politicians' expenditures from two states, I find that while women get allocated fewer projects and funds on average as compared to men, there is no difference in education expenditure.