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Title:Empirical essays in development economics: Evidence from Bolivia
Author(s):Yanez Pagans, Monica
Director of Research:Arends-Kuenning, Mary P.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Arends-Kuenning, Mary P.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Baylis, Katherine R.; Gundersen, Craig; Miller, Nolan; Winter-Nelson, Alex E.
Department / Program:Agr & Consumer Economics
Discipline:Agricultural & Applied Econ
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Field experiments
Impact Evaluation
Development Economics
Abstract:This dissertation is a collection of three independent empirical essays on development economics, with applications to public service reform, policy evaluation, and community-driven development in Bolivia. The first chapter investigates the potential of information technologies to improve public service delivery and empower citizens in the context of two unusual randomized natural experiments occurring within one particular bureaucratic process: the renewal of a national identification card by the Bolivian Police. The first experiment arises from the random assignment of both police officers and applicants to a manual or digital renewal process, which is identical in all aspects except that the digital renewal process makes use of information technologies as part of the renewal process. The second experiment arises by the existence of technical failures within the digital renewal process, which allows police officers to change from the digital to the manual renewal process randomly across renewal day. The efficiency of public service delivery is measured in terms of both renewal success rates (which average to a strikingly low rate of 72 percent in my sample) and time-it-takes to renew an identification card. The causal effect of information technologies on public service delivery is estimated using two different identification strategies. In the first one, applicant-police officer pairs randomly assigned to each one of these two renewal processes are compared after controlling for renewal day fixed effects. In the second one, applicant-police officer pairs randomly assigned to the digital process are compared to those randomly assigned to this same process but who experienced a technical failure within the process, which allows to directly control for unobserved heterogeneity at the police officer level. I find that information technologies significantly improve the quality of public service delivery. Applicants randomly assigned to the digital renewal process are on average 12 percentage points more likely to complete the renewal process as compared to those randomly assigned to the manual one. Further, successful applicants randomly assigned to the digital process take on average 31 percent less time to complete the process as compared to those randomly assigned to the manual one. Lastly, I find that information technologies significantly lower barriers in access to national identification cards by promoting a more equitable provision across the population. I discuss several channels through which technologies might be improving efficiency and promoting equity within this particular bureaucratic process. Overall, my findings suggest that information technologies might be achieving these goals by introducing efficiencies (such as reducing administrative shortcomings and transaction costs), and limiting the exercise of discretion by police officers within the renewal process. The second chapter considers the extent to which cash transfer programs might affect child labor and schooling decisions by the households when families are fully unconstrained in the use of the benefits from these programs. This is investigated in the context of a policy quasi-experiment created by the introduction of a large old-age pension program in Bolivia, the Bolivida, which does not target specific behavioral changes, and it is paid to all elder citizens independent of their income levels. To identify the causal effects of this program, I use two alternative identification strategies. In the first one, I estimate average intent-to-treat effects of the program under a fuzzy regression discontinuity approach by taking advantage of the fact that the probability of receiving the pension changes discontinuously at the eligibility age. In the second one, I estimate average treatment effects on the treated by using eligibility as an instrumental variable for Bolivida receipt. My findings present some evidence that the Bolivida led to a substantial increase in the probability that children in the rural areas from households with relatively low levels of assets were engaged in child labor (5.53 percentage points). In contrast, the Bolivida led to a substantial reduction in the probability that children in the urban areas from households with relatively low levels of assets were engaged in child labor (-32.97 percentage points), and in the number of hours urban children from households with relatively low levels of assets spend in farming and agricultural activities (-146.45 percent reduction in hours worked). The changes in child labor as a result of the Bolivida, however, did not translate into changes in school attendance among children. I discuss several reasons why the Bolivida might affect children's time allocation decisions, including the possibility that households engage in bargaining behavior, that households might be myopic when making decisions regarding their children's human capital investments, and that households might be credit or liquidity constrained. Overall, my findings are most consistent with the existence of credit and liquidity constraints among poor rural households. In particular, unconditional cash transfer programs might create incentives for liquidity and credit constrained agricultural households to engage their children in farming activities by facilitating productive investments in settings where labor markets are missing, where hired labor cannot easily be substituted for family labor due to moral hazard problems, and where returns to experience from child labor are high. The third chapter examines bureaucratic delay within the allocation of small infrastructure projects by municipal governments in Bolivia, and it presents a randomized field experiment designed to improve public service delivery by promoting voice, transparency, and accountability among grassroots organizations. The experiment consists of randomly providing municipal governments with a mailing tracking system, which provides public officials and grassroots organizations real-time information about the processing of small infrastructure projects requests by municipal governments. The objective of this intervention is twofold. First, is to facilitate the involvement of grassroots organizations in the process of reviewing, tracking, and monitoring small infrastructure project allocations. Second, is to explicitly alter the probability of detecting inefficient administrative practices within district councils and, therefore, to implicitly increase the expected cost of engaging in such practices among public officials. The findings of this paper suggest that monitoring tools that promote access to information by citizens might play a critical role in improving public service delivery outcomes. Yet, in settings where mechanisms of local accountability are subject to be captured by local elites or are weak, monitoring tools might have limited capacity to improve outcomes. In such settings, major transparency related reforms might be needed to improve public service delivery outcomes.
Issue Date:2012-06-27
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Monica Yanez Pagans
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-06-27
Date Deposited:2012-05

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