NBER Working Papers by Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak

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Working Papers

May 2014Under-investment in a Profitable Technology: The Case of Seasonal Migration in Bangladesh
with Gharad Bryan, Shyamal Chowdhury: w20172
Hunger during pre-harvest lean seasons is widespread in the agrarian areas of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. We randomly assign an $8.50 incentive to households in rural Bangladesh to temporarily out-migrate during the lean season. The incentive induces 22% of households to send a seasonal migrant, their consumption at the origin increases significantly, and treated households are 8-10 percentage points more likely to re-migrate 1 and 3 years after the incentive is removed. These facts can be explained qualitatively by a model in which migration is risky, mitigating risk requires individual-specific learning, and some migrants are sufficiently close to subsistence that failed migration is very costly. We document evidence consistent with this model using heterogeneity analysis and additio...
Social Learning and Communication
with Ariel BenYishay: w20139
Low adoption of agricultural technologies holds large productivity consequences for developing countries. Agricultural extension services counter information failures by deploying external agents to communicate with farmers. However, social networks are recognized as the most credible source of information about new technologies. We incorporate social learning in extension policy using a large-scale field experiment in which we communicate to farmers using different members of social networks. We show that communicator effort is susceptible to small performance incentives, and the social identity of the communicator influences learning and adoption. Farmers find communicators who face agricultural conditions and constraints most comparable to themselves to be the most persuasive. Inco...
January 2014Risk, Insurance and Wages in General Equilibrium
with Mark Rosenzweig: w19811
We estimate the general-equilibrium labor market effects of a large-scale randomized intervention in which we designed and marketed a rainfall index insurance product across three states in India. Marketing agricultural insurance to both cultivators and to agricultural wage laborers allows us to test a general-equilibrium model of wage determination in settings where households supplying labor and households hiring labor face weather risk. Consistent with theoretical predictions, we find that both labor demand and equilibrium wages become more rainfall sensitive when cultivators are offered rainfall insurance, because insurance induces cultivators to switch to riskier, higher-yield production methods. The same insurance contract offered to agricultural laborers smoothes wages across rain...
April 2013Gender Differences in Preferences, Intra-Household Externalities, and Low Demand for Improved Cookstoves
with Grant Miller: w18964
This paper examines whether an intra-household externality prevents adoption of a technology with substantial implications for population health and the environment: improved cookstoves. Motivated by a model of intra-household decision-making, the experiment markets stoves to husbands or wives in turn at randomly varying prices. We find that women – who bear disproportionate cooking costs – have stronger preference for healthier stoves, but lack the authority to make purchases. Our findings suggest that if women cannot make independent choices about household resource use, public policy may not be able to exploit gender differences in preferences to promote technology adoption absent broader social change.

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