Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Mobarak, Ahmed Mushfiq
Formal and informal institutions are important determinants of behavior and economic outcomes. In this dissertation, I study the causal effects of changes to one formal and one informal institution on individuals' behavior. The first chapter uses an experiment in Bangladesh to show how providing information on delays in a public service provision to government bureaucrats and their supervisors affects these bureaucrats' behavior and the outcomes for applicants for the public service. The second chapter (co-authored with Ro'ee Levy) shows how the MeToo movement increased the reporting of sexual crimes to the police by changing the norms, information, or both, about sexual misconduct. Chapter 1: “Service Delivery, Corruption, and Information Flows in Bureaucracies: Evidence from the Bangladesh Civil Service” Government bureaucracies in low- and middle-income countries often suffer from corruption and slow public service delivery. Can an information system – providing information about delays to the responsible bureaucrats and their supervisors – reduce delays? Paying bribes for faster service delivery is a common form of corruption, but does improving average processing times reduce bribes? To answer these questions, I conduct a large-scale field experiment over 16 months with the Bangladesh Civil Service. I send monthly scorecards measuring delays in service delivery to government officials and their supervisors. The scorecards increase services delivered on time by 11% but do not reduce bribes. Instead, the scorecards increase bribes for high-performing bureaucrats. These results are inconsistent with existing theories suggesting that speeding up service delivery reduces bribes. I propose a model where bureaucrats' shame or reputational concerns constrain corruption. When bureaucrats' reputation improves through positive performance feedback, this constraint is relaxed, and bribes increase. Overall, my study shows that improving information within bureaucracies can change bureaucrats' behavior, even without explicit incentives. However, positive performance feedback can have negative spillovers on bureaucrats' performance across different behaviors. Chapter 2: “The Effects of Social Movements: Evidence from #MeToo” (Joint with Ro'ee Levy) Social movements are associated with large societal changes, but evidence on their causal effects is limited. We study the effect of the MeToo movement on a high-stakes decision—reporting a sexual crime to the police. We construct a new dataset of sexual and non-sexual crimes reported in 30 OECD countries, covering 88% of the OECD population. We analyze the effect of the MeToo movement by employing a triple-difference strategy over time, across countries, and between crime types. The movement increased reporting of sexual crimes by 10% during its first six months. The effect is persistent and lasts at least 15 months. Because we find a strong effect on reporting before any major changes to laws or policy took place, we attribute the effect to a change in social norms or information. Using more detailed US data, we show that the movement also increased arrests for sexual crimes in the long run. In contrast to a common criticism of the movement, we do not find evidence for large differences in the effect across racial and socioeconomic groups. Our results suggest that social movements can rapidly change high-stakes personal decisions.
Mattsson, Martin, "Essays on the Effects of Institutional Changes" (2021). Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dissertations. 87.