Research

Working Paper
Siddharth George, Sarika Gupta, Manoj Kumar, and Yusuf Neggers. Working Paper. “Coordinating Voters against Criminal Politicians: Evidence from a Mobile Experiment in India”.Abstract
Adverse selection to political office is now a salient concern in some mature democracies, but it is commonplace in the developing world. In India, 9% of legislators face charges for murder, kidnapping, rape or armed robbery. Using a field experiment around the Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections, we test the theory that criminal politicians get elected because voters lack information to screen candidates and coordinate on good candidates. We partnered with 3 telecom providers and ran a voter information campaign involving over 600,000 voters. Voters in treated villages received a voice call and text message informing them about the criminal charges of all candidates in their constituency. Our campaign caused clean candidates to receive 6pp more votes and the most violent criminal candidates (ie. murderers) to receive 7.7pp fewer votes. Effects were strongest for the coordination treatment arm, in which individuals were informed that many other voters had also received the message. The results suggest that voter frictions such as information asymmetry and coordination failure may cause bad political equilibria to persist. 
voter_mobile_experiment_181126.pdf
Siddharth George and A. Nilesh Fernando. Working Paper. “Debiasing Discriminators: Evidence from the Introduction of Neutral Referees in Cricket”.Abstract

Evaluators display significant in-group bias in many contexts. This paper shows that evaluators are less biased in the presence of a neutral colleague. We compile data on all international cricket since 1893, and analyse a series of reforms that introduced neutral umpires in international cricket matches. We present four results. First, prior to the reforms, both on-field umpires shared the nationality of the home team and make 9pp more discretionary calls against the foreign team. Requiring one of the two on-field umpires to be from a neutral country eliminates this bias. Second, half of this bias reduction is due to home umpires being less partial toward their team when paired with a neutral umpire. The de-biasing effects of neutral umpires are largest when an experienced neutral umpire is paired with an inexperienced home umpire. Third, we find, consistent with this, that a further reform requiring both on-field umpires to be from a neutral country had no additional bias reduction effect. Fourth, a “career concerns” reform that introduced TV referees and match executives to monitor and assess on-field umpires has no effect on bias. Collectively, these results suggest that social pressure from colleagues can discipline discriminators.

Media coverage: LiveMint

cricket_paper.pdf
Siddharth George and Afiqah Suhaiemi. Working Paper. “Taking the Path Less Travelled? Long-run Impacts of Vocational Secondary Education in Singapore”.Abstract

In many countries, students are assigned to different educational tracks early in life. This paper studies the long-run impacts of vocational secondary education using a natural experiment in Singapore. Students are assigned to tracks in secondary school based on a cutoff score in the nationwide Primary School Leaving Examination. Using a fuzzy regression discontinuity design and social security administrative data, we find that students assigned to the vocational track are more likely to complete secondary school (3pp) and attain a post-secondary (usually vocational) qualification (9pp), but less likely to attain a university degree (3pp). Attending the vocational track has no average effect on later-life employment, earnings or wealth, because positive effects on some students balance negative effects on others. Despite evidence that some students benefit substantially from attending the vocational track, nearly all students given the choice opt for the academic track. These patterns are consistent with a simple theory where individuals have different learning styles and there is social stigma against the vocational track. 

Siddharth George and Kathryn Nicholson. Working Paper. “What Happened to Midnight’s Children? Long-run Impacts of Accepting Refugees during India's Partition”.Abstract
Refugee policy is a contentious issue in many countries. Yet there remains little empirical evidence on the long-run economic impacts of accepting refugees. This paper examines this question by analysing refugee resettlement during the Partition of India in 1947, one of the largest population displacements of the twentieth century. Using rich data on migration flows and the location of refugee camps, we document that districts which had a Partition-era refugee camp are more industrialised today: they have more manufacturing firms, a higher share of employment in manufacturing industries, and a lower share of employment in agriculture. An instrumental variables strategy exploiting distance from the border and historical railway lines suggests a causal interpretation.