General Equilibrium Effects of (Improving) Public Employment Programs: Experimental Evidence from India
NBER Working Paper No. 23838
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.
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23838
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