Working Papers

“Media and Motivation: The Effect of Performance Pay on Writers and Content” with Ivan Balbuzanov and Emilia Tjernstrom.

Abstract: This paper shows how performance pay affects worker productivity in a setting where agents choose how to allocate effort across multiple tasks with stochastic output. In an online news firm in Kenya, journalists produce output with effort and choose which topics to write about with heterogeneous marginal returns. Exploiting a randomized controlled trial that allocated workers to a piecewise linear contract in the number of users or a flat rate pay per article contract, we find evidence of a negative causal effect of the pay per users contract on journalists’ weekly article submission with a resulting increase in average views per article. We show both theoretically and empirically that journalist choices of quantity, effort, and topic are heterogeneous in past productivity, beliefs, and experience. Our study and results show that output based incentives contracts have substantial implications on writer choices and the content produced by a news firm, with short and long term implications for profitability and the “quality” of news.

“Confidence and Information Usage: Evidence from Soil Testing in India” with Patrick Ward (Draft)

Abstract: Does confidence influence demand for and responsiveness to information interventions? We add to an emerging literature on behavioral responses to information provision by investigating the role of confidence on willingness to pay for and responsiveness to input recommendations and soil quality measures in the context of a soil testing intervention in Bihar, India. To motivate our empirical analysis, we interpret confidence within the target-input model as the variance of a farmer’s prior beliefs over optimal fertilizer application rates. We extend the model to consider how farmers make decisions about the purchase and responsiveness to a signal given heterogeneity in their ability, trust, and confidence. The model predictions are tested in the context of a soil testing intervention in the state of Bihar that provided farmers with plot level soil health cards prior to planting. We elicit farmers’ prior beliefs distributions over optimal fertilizer application rates using a visually aided method in the field and combine measures of dispersion with willingness to pay for soil tests and input behavior before and after receipt of soil health cards with plot level nutrient levels and recommendations. We find that farmers with less disperse priors (more confident) have a lower willingness to pay for soil testing ex-ante and lower responsiveness of fertilizer usage to the recommended application rates.

The Role of Learning on Technology Adoption” with Patrick Ward

Works in Progress

“Subjective Beliefs and Hybrid Seed Adoption in Kenya” with Emilia Tjernström

“Impacts of Privatization on Market Performance in Dakar, Senegal” with Jean-François Houde, Molly Lipscomb, and Laura Schechter