Culture, Capital & the Gender Gap in Political Economy Preferences Evidence from Meghalaya’s Tribes
(with Nikhar Gaikwad). 2021. The Journal of PoliticsVol. 83(3).

2017. Winner, Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA)’s Pi Sigma Alpha Award for Best Paper Overall, Presented at the MPSA Annual Conference, April 2017
2017. Winner, Midwest Political Science Association’s Kellogg/Notre Dame Award for Best Paper in Comparative Politics, Presented at the MPSA Annual Conference, April 2017

Abstract: What explains the gender gap in political engagement and economic policy preferences? Many scholars point to material resources, while others credit cultural determinants. We identify and test an important link between these factors: cultural lineage norms that structure entitlements to resources. Studying the relationship between culture and resources is challenging in societies where both disadvantage women. We analyze a unique setting: northeast India, where matrilineal tribes live alongside patrilineal communities. Patriarchal cultures and political institutions are shared, but lineage norms are distinct: patrilineal groups distribute inherited wealth through men, while matrilineal tribes do so via women. We conduct survey and behavioral experiments with representative samples of both communities, alongside extensive qualitative research, and find that the gender gap reverses across patrilineal and matrilineal groups. Our results indicate that lineage norms—which determine who gets to make decisions about wealth and how—are key determinants of the political economy gender gap.

Reform, Representation, and Resistance: The Politics of Property Rights’ Enforcement.
2020. The Journal of Politics, Vol. 82(4)

Abstract: When do quotas for women’s political representation promote economic gender equality? Legislative reforms equalizing economic rights are common globally, with mixed results. I consider the impact of quotas on women’s rights in a crucial domain: property. I leverage exogenously set electoral quotas—reservations—for women as heads of local government in India. Reservations enable clean identification of the impact of representation on enforcing gender-equalizing land inheritance reforms. I find that political representation enables women to secure property rights and ensures that they are upheld. However, backlash occurs when reservations guaranteeing female representation make enforcement of reform credible. Women can reduce this backlash by using female representation to trade traditional monetary dowry for property inheritance and familial responsibilities. This, in turn, reduces the “cost” of reform to men. These findings confirm the power of political representation to not only claim economic rights but broaden their acceptance by changing perceptions of parity.

Women’s Inheritance Rights Reform and the Preference for Sons in India
(with Sanchari Roy and Sonia Bhalotra). 2020. Journal of Development Economics.

– Press mention in The Wire, Business Standard, India Spend

Abstract: We investigate whether legislation of equal inheritance rights for women modifies the historic preference for sons in India, and find that it exacerbates it. Children born after the reform in families with a firstborn daughter are 3.8–4.3 percentage points less likely to be girls, indicating that the reform encouraged female foeticide. We also find that the reform increased excess female infant mortality and son-biased fertility stopping. This suggests that the inheritance reform raised the costs of having daughters, consistent with which we document an increase in
stated son preference in fertility post reform. We conclude that this is a case where legal reform was frustrated by persistence of cultural norms. We provide some suggestive evidence of slowly changing patrilocality norms.

Accounting for Accountability: Local Government and Social Equity in India
2015. Asian Survey 55(5). Special Edition on State Capacity in India.

Abstract: This article studies variation in individuals’ perceived ability across India to hold local officials accountable for their performance. It finds significant gender differences in accountability perceptions, consistent with traditional social institutions. Exposure to progressive institutions of education and labor mobility is associated with the elimination and reversal of gender differences.