NBER Working Papers by Manisha Shah

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Working Papers

July 2014Decriminalizing Indoor Prostitution: Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health
with Scott Cunningham: w20281
Most governments in the world including the United States prohibit prostitution. Given these types of laws rarely change and are fairly uniform across regions, our knowledge about the impact of decriminalizing sex work is largely conjectural. We exploit the fact that a Rhode Island District Court judge unexpectedly decriminalized indoor prostitution in 2003 to provide the first causal estimates of the impact of decriminalization on the composition of the sex market, rape offenses, and sexually transmitted infection outcomes. Not surprisingly, we find that decriminalization increased the size of the indoor market. However, we also find that decriminalization caused both forcible rape offenses and gonorrhea incidence to decline for the overall population. Our synthetic control model finds 82...
October 2013Risk-Taking Behavior in the Wake of Natural Disasters
with Lisa Cameron: w19534
We investigate whether experiencing a natural disaster affects risk-taking behavior. We conduct standard risk games (using real money) with randomly selected individuals in rural Indonesia. We find that individuals who recently suffered a flood or earthquake exhibit more risk aversion. Experiencing a natural disaster causes people to perceive that they now face a greater risk of a future disaster. We conclude that this change in perception of background risk causes people to take fewer risks. We provide evidence that experimental risk behavior is correlated with real life risk behavior, highlighting the importance of our results.
June 2013Drought of Opportunities: Contemporaneous and Long Term Impacts of Rainfall Shocks on Human Capital
with Bryce Millett Steinberg: w19140
Higher wages are generally thought to increase human capital production especially in the developing world. We show that human capital investment is procyclical in early life (in utero to age 3), but then becomes countercyclical. We argue this countercyclical effect is caused by families investing more time in schooling when outside options are worse. We show that children and mothers report a lower likelihood of work in drought years, and children are more likely to attend school. In addition, we find long term impacts of these shocks: adults who experienced more rainfall during school years have lower overall total years of schooling and lower wages. These results suggest that the opportunity cost of schooling, even for fairly young children, is an important factor in determining overa...
April 2009Face Value: Information and Signaling in an Illegal Market
with Trevon Logan, Manisha Shah: w14841
Economists argue that rich information environments and formal enforcement of contracts are necessary to prevent market failures when information asymmetries exist. We test for the necessity of formal enforcement to overcome the problems of asymmetric information by estimating the value of information in an illegal market with a particularly rich information structure: the online market for male sex work. We assemble a rich dataset from the largest and most comprehensive online male sex worker website to estimate the effect of information on pricing. We show how clients of male sex workers informally police the market in a way that makes signaling credible. Using our institutional knowledge, we also identify the specific signal male sex workers use to communicate quality to clients: face p...

Published: Trevon D. Logan & Manisha Shah, 2013. "Face Value: Information and Signaling in an Illegal Market," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 529-564, January. citation courtesy of

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