Research

Job Market Paper 

Virtual Windows Through Glass Walls? Digitization for Mobility-Constrained Female Entrepreneurs.
AEA registries 7790 and 9177

Abstract: Social norms and childcare responsibilities often constrain women’s mobility and work. In this paper, I investigate the promise of digitization in unlocking the growth of home-based businesses, an economic lifeline for women in developing countries. I randomly offer 1,122 Jordanian female entrepreneurs access to virtual storefronts by creating and managing Facebook pages for their businesses, as well as offering them digital marketing training created in collaboration with local social media influencers. After six months of support, treated women had higher business survival and attracted more online clients. Additionally, expanding the viability of home-based businesses did not reinforce conservative views tying women to the domestic sphere or derail women’s work outside the home. Machine learning heterogeneity analysis reveals that high business quality and low mobility for the owner at baseline are particularly predictive of business treatment effects, consistent with a model where talented women were locked in restricted markets due to mobility constraints. Indeed, low-mobility women experience significantly higher revenues and sales to strangers than their counterparts in the control group. Despite the documented gains, I find in a separate experiment that low mobility women are significantly less likely to apply to an online training on digital entrepreneurship and marketing, and that random access to the training alone leads to modest business improvements. Together, results suggest that digital technologies can be transformative for female entrepreneurs, but without the necessary support, they might fail to attract and benefit the most constrained among them. 

Working Papers

Market Exposure on Facebook: Evidence from Developed and Developing Countries.
with Mike Bailey, Edward Glaeser, and Michael Luca.

Abstract: Are internet-based nudges more or less effective in the developing world? We analyze a large experiment on Facebook in which business pages were recommended to users expected to like them across more than one hundred countries. We find that exposure  matters everywhere, but effect sizes on page fans and followers are significantly bigger in countries with lower levels of development in the sample.  This difference is driven by users of Android phones rather than iPhones, suggesting that market access support is particularly effective for middle income residents of poorer countries.   We also find large increases in the cumulative number of messaging threads between users and businesses, suggesting that online exposure has downstream effects on match quality and interactions.

Work in Progress

Between Trust and Trade: on Informal Credit Networks in India.
with Alp Sungu and Kartik Srivastava. Pilot concluded; descriptive data collection ongoing.
Abstract: Given the lack of formal consumer credit in many parts of the world and the need for consumption smoothing, store credit requests, or informal buy now pay later requests, are ubiquitous. In this project, we collect transaction-by-customer-level data from a sample of Indian street shops and document stylized facts on the scale, cycles, and concentration of this phenomena. Additionally, we investigate the tradeoffs of lending on store credit within a network of informal groceries in a low-income Indian settlement. To do so, we will randomize customers to receive store credit, a price discount, or a business-as-usual control. We aim to test the assignment’s implications on customer repayment, future purchases, loyalty, and overall business operations and profits. In a smaller experiment, we test whether the offer of credit or discounts drives customers to increase their search radius and deviate from existing relationships with business owners. Finally, we will also test whether owners expand the number and type of customers they lend to following experimentation through insured lending from the intervention.

Opportunity Across Borders: Evidence on Remote Work for Refugees.
with Emma Smith. Funding secured, implementation ongoing.
Abstract: While talent is abundant among forced migrants, opportunity is not. For more than 100 million forced migrants around the world (UNHCR, 2022), numerous challenges stymie efforts for social and economic integration. In this project, we experimentally investigate whether remote work opportunities can provide financial sustenance for forced migrants, often constrained by legal barriers to work locally. The study will cross-randomize participants’ access to professional mentorship and to training, with the aim of lifting informational, logistical, and behavioral barriers to technology adoption. The project aims to understand if online markets for skills can unlock opportunities for talented individuals among heavily understudied populations of displaced people, with potential implications on their skill investments, earnings, migration decisions, and integration in refugee and host communities.

Religion in the Digital Age.
with Samuel Bazzi, Faiz Essa, and Benjamin Marx. Analysis stage.

Cell Phones and Growth in Kenya.
with Tavneet Suri and Kamal Bhattacharya. Analysis stage.