Verghese Kurien Policy Lab


Vivek Pandey, Ankita Rathi and Deepak Kumar (2023). Governance Response during COVID-19 & Political Affirmative Action: Evidence from Local Governments in India, Public Administration and Development

Abstract: A great deal of work argues that the entry of women into public spaces can promote political and institutional change. The COVID-19 provides an opportunity to investigate whether and under what conditions women's political representation in rural local governments deliver effective local governance. Drawing from two rounds of data collected in 174 local governments and 1051 households in three Indian states, the paper shows that women Pradhans in the Gram Panchayats had no differential impact on the governance response to COVID-19 compared to the unreserved ones. Analyzing the heterogeneity in these responses suggests that institutional factors like the proportion of women in village council and local entrepreneurship diversity can enhance women Pradhan's capacity to respond to the pandemic. We explore two channels that enable women Pradhan to govern effectively during the pandemic: improving women's participation in the labor force and reducing household's vulnerability to poverty in the pre-COVID period.

Abstract: Federal and state governments in developing countries have tasked local governments with managing COVID-19 on the ground. The bottom-up approach is critical to ensuring household food security, especially in rural areas. We have utilized data from a panel of Indian households that participated in two rounds of a livelihoods survey. While the first round was fielded before COVID-19, the second round was conducted telephonically after the COVID-19-lockdown. We developed an Information Management Response Index (IMRI) to measure the strength of local governments’ information management initiatives. The difference-in-difference estimates show that local governments could partially mitigate the pandemic’s adverse effects on

(a) level and distribution (adult-equivalent per-capita) of food and nutrition expenditure and

(b) household vulnerability to food and nutrition poverty.

For landless households, IMRI led to statistically significant and additional welfare effects. Three channels explain our empirical findings: (a) Maintenance of essential commodities through fair-price shops,

(b) Access to paid employment and cash (income effect), and

(c) Disease management (substitution effect). The estimates have been adjusted for sample attrition and multiple-hypothesis correction. We conducted robustness checks with respect to index construction, instrumental variable estimation, and sub-group analysis

Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2022.102278

Abstract: Diversifying household livelihoods and increasing women’s labor force participation is a major developmental challenge in South Asia. Multi-sectoral development approaches can provide better economic opportunities and women’s employment simultaneously. This study provides evidence on the livelihoods and women’s labor supply impacts of the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), a $5.1 billion livelihoods initiative. The study matches primary data from 4,202 households and 726 villages using the 2011 Population Census and the 2012 Socio-Economic and Caste Census. The instrumental variable estimates suggest that participation in NRLM is associated with an improvement in the number of household livelihoods by 0.707, livelihood diversification by 0.13σ, and women’s working participation rate (WPR) by 15.4 percent. The study identifies two sets of channels, namely, formation of productive assets and access to formal credit, through which NRLM influenced livelihoods and women’s WPR. Heterogeneous program effects suggest that women in socially and economically deprived households benefitted most.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1080/13545701.2022.2037684

Abstract: Can mandated adoption of corporate social responsibility (CSR) improve firm value? Most CSR adoption is purely voluntary. However, governments regularly encourage CSR adoption with soft regulations that vary from simply endorsing and symbolically supporting CSR to requiring the adoption of specific practices. Governments have resisted fully mandating CSR because there is some concern universally that mandated CSR may reduce firm value. There is, however, no empirical clarity as to whether mandated CSR impedes or improves firm value. We address this uncertainty by analyzing the effects of the mandated adoption of CSR that the government of India legislated in 2014. Drawing on a sample of 1,526 publicly traded firms and deploying a combinative analytical framework comprising an event study, regression discontinuity design, and a difference-in-differences technique, we conclude that India’s CSR mandate did, in fact, increase value for all firms bound by the mandate. This value-enhancing effect was greater for foreign firms relative to domestic firms. Our results refute previous research showing that India’s CSR mandate diminished firm value.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1177/00076503221085962

Abstract: We combine the results of a laboratory experiment and survey of agricultural households to estimate the welfare impacts of a market-based intervention with links to value-chain. We investigate whether increased participation by women in such value-chains improves their relative bargaining power and therefore their ability to contribute to household welfare. We utilize the National Dairy Plan-I as an example to estimate pathways through which such interventions may affect household decision-making. We find that the program design significantly increased women’s relative bargaining power within the household, which acts as an important channel for enhancing women’s ability to contribute to household welfare through decision-making processes related to food, nutrition, branded food items, and child education. The instrumental variable estimates show that if value-chains are gender-neutral then direct program effects are significant but small. Participation in National Dairy Plan-I, on the other hand, improved women’s relative bargaining power, allowing them to make substantial contribution to welfare. We show that when women’s bargaining power mediates participation in value-chains, the nutrition elasticity rises from 0.26 to 0.94. While the impact on analytical ability (i.e., mathematics Z-score) is negligible in the absence of female agency, performance improves by 0.35σ when gendered element(s) of the program are allowed to act as a channel.


Abstract: This study presents fresh evidence that market interventions aimed at empowering women are more effective in the presence of formal political institutions, using the case of political reservations for women in Indian local governments. It uses data from 2,423 households in 100 Indian villages and accounts for endogeneity through the instrumental variable method to investigate women engaged in the Indian dairy sector following the implementation of India’s National Dairy Plan, which seeks to connect women with formal retail markets. Results suggest that while markets provide “passive” forms of agency to women, political representation can transition this to “active” forms of agency, allowing women to exhibit purposeful behavior. However, spillover effects of reservations (quotas) do not contribute significantly to women’s intrahousehold agency since they continue to depend on male counterparts for routine and intermittent decisions. Additionally, in community matters, the cumulative effect of reservations is more pronounced than standalone market impacts.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1080/13545701.2020.1752394

Abstract: Improving the livelihoods of poor households and transitioning more women back to the labor force is a major challenge in South Asia. Self-employment promoted through women’s groups has often been cited as a promising intervention towards this end. However, the evidence on the impact of such programs on household income and labor outcomes is limited, especially for government programs like the National Rural Livelihoods Mission in India. This study aims to provide empirical evidence on the welfare impacts of an “intensive approach” adopted under this program. The data for the study come from 4,316 household surveys in 727 villages. The study uses matching methods with the population and socioeconomic census, as well as an instrumental variable approach to construct a retrospective control group. The analysis finds that the program has been able to achieve its primary objective of improving livelihoods by transitioning more women into work. The program has also expanded access to credit, increased the proportion of savings, and reduced interest rates on credit for rural households. This is the first study to estimate the annual income effects of a government-run rural livelihoods program in India, and it shows significant increases in median income across the sample. The results for 30th, 40th, and 75th percentiles are also large and significant. However, the study did not find significant average treatment effects for income. Contrary to previous studies, this study finds weaker impacts on assets, except for livestock.