Sandip Sukhtankar

Department of Economics
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904

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Institutional Affiliation: University of Virginia

NBER Working Papers and Publications

February 2020Identity Verification Standards in Welfare Programs: Experimental Evidence from India
with Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus: w26744
How should recipients of publicly-provided goods and services prove their identity in order to access these benefits? The core design challenge is managing the tradeoff between Type-II errors of inclusion (including corruption) against Type-I errors of exclusion whereby legitimate beneficiaries are denied benefits. We use a large-scale experiment randomized across 15 million beneficiaries to evaluate the effects of more stringent ID requirements based on biometric authentication on the delivery of India's largest social protection program (subsidized food) in the state of Jharkhand. By itself, requiring biometric authentication to transact did not reduce leakage, slightly increased transaction costs for the average beneficiary, and reduced benefits received by the subset of beneficiaries w...
November 2018Improving Last-Mile Service Delivery using Phone-Based Monitoring
with Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus, Jeffrey Weaver: w25298
Improving “last-mile” public-service delivery is a recurring challenge in developing countries. Could the widespread adoption of mobile phones provide a scalable, cost-effective means for improvement? We use a large-scale experiment to evaluate the impact of phone-based monitoring on a program that transferred nearly a billion dollars to 5.7 million Indian farmers. In randomly-selected jurisdictions, officials were informed that program implementation would be measured via calls with beneficiaries. This led to a 7.6% reduction in the number of farmers who did not receive their transfers. The program was highly cost-effective, costing 3.6 cents for each additional dollar delivered.
September 2017General Equilibrium Effects of (Improving) Public Employment Programs: Experimental Evidence from India
with Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus: w23838
A public employment program's effect on poverty depends on both program earnings and market impacts. We estimate this composite effect, exploiting a large-scale randomized experiment across 157 sub-districts and 19 million people that improved the implementation of India's employment guarantee. Without changing government expenditure, this reform raised low-income households' earnings by 13%, driven primarily by market earnings. Real wages rose 6% while days without paid work fell 7%. Effects spilled over across sub-district boundaries, and adjusting for these spillovers substantially raises point estimates. The results highlight the importance and feasibility of accounting for general equilibrium effects in program evaluation.
March 2014Building State Capacity: Evidence from Biometric Smartcards in India
with Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus: w19999
Anti-poverty programs in developing countries are often difficult to implement; in particular, many governments lack the capacity to deliver payments securely to targeted beneficiaries. We evaluate the impact of biometrically-authenticated payments infrastructure ("Smartcards") on beneficiaries of employment (NREGS) and pension (SSP) programs in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, using a large-scale experiment that randomized the rollout of Smartcards over 158 sub- districts and 19 million people. We find that, while incompletely implemented, the new system delivered a faster, more predictable, and less corrupt NREGS payments process without adversely affecting program access. For each of these outcomes, treatment group distributions first-order stochastically dominated those of the contr...

Published: Karthik Muralidharan & Paul Niehaus & Sandip Sukhtankar, 2016. "Building State Capacity: Evidence from Biometric Smartcards in India," American Economic Review, vol 106(10), pages 2895-2929. citation courtesy of

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