Research

Working Papers

“Media and Motivation: The Effect of Performance Pay on Writers and Content” with Ivan Balbuzanov and Emilia Tjernström. [Job Market Paper]

Abstract: We show that output-based performance pay increases overall productivity in an environment where agents choose how many tasks to undertake and how to allocate effort across them. In an online news firm in Kenya, journalists produce articles, choosing effort levels and topics with heterogeneous marginal returns. We exploit a field experiment in an online news firm in Kenya, which pays citizen-journalists for articles. The writers choose how many articles to write, on what topics, and how much effort to invest. Writers were randomly allocated either to a contract paying a flat rate per article or to a contract that is linear in the number of pageviews. The output-contingent contract reduces the number of submitted articles and incentivizes higher per-article effort–findings that are in line with our theoretical predictions. This results in a seventy-five percent increase in productivity. Our study shows that output-based incentive contracts have implications for journalists’ effort and content choices, with short and long-term implications for profitability and for 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

“Seeds of Uncertainty: Information, Subjective Expectations, and Technology Adoption” with Emilia Tjernström

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

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