Financial incentives reduce child marriage
In Bangladesh, a randomized trial found that small financial incentives to delay marriage lowered rates of marrying young for eligible girls and other girls in their communities.
Child marriage remains common even where female schooling and employment opportunities have grown. We experimentally evaluate a financial incentive to delay marriage alongside a girls' empowerment program in Bangladesh. While girls eligible for two years of incentive are 19 percent less likely to marry underage, the empowerment program failed to decrease adolescent marriage. We show that these results are consistent with a signaling model in which bride type is imperfectly observed but preferred types (socially conservative girls) have lower returns to delaying marriage. Consistent with our theoretical prediction, we observe substantial spillovers of the incentive on untreated nonpreferred types.
Anti-corruption regulations may reduce state capacity
In Brazil, government workers responded to regulations designed to combat corruption by outsourcing government functions to non-state actors, potentially reducing governmental capacity.
The solution to weak bureaucratic capacity in developing countries is often presumed to be more accountability. This paper shows how accountability initiatives, intended to reduce corruption, can actually hinder the development of capable government agencies by making it harder for directors to recruit experts and spend their budgets. It further highlights a common way public servants escape the accountability rules that limit their effectiveness: outsourcing bureaucracies to nonstate organizations. This practice of outsourcing bureaucracy to avoid accountability rules creates what I call “shadow” state capacity and, paradoxically, it may help explain “pockets of effectiveness” among government social programs in developing countries. Drawing on in-depth interviews and descriptive statistics, I show how outsourcing was a critical factor in producing two of Brazil’s most vaunted social sector programs. However, I also suggest that outsourcing bureaucracy may ultimately limit state capacity, even if it helps to build capable programs in the short run.
Independent work reduces gender disparities in performance
A field experiment with musicians in India found that women performed better on creative tasks when allowed to work independently rather than in a group.
Women have traditionally been held back from performing to their full potential in creative project teams, where they typically constitute a minority. However, due to recent technological developments, the structure of teamwork is rapidly evolving. Specifically, teamwork is now often performed asynchronously: members of teams work at different times, by themselves, rather than simultaneously and together. How will this shift to asynchronous teamwork affect the performance of men and women on creative project teams? This article argues that women will perform better when teamwork is asynchronous rather than synchronous, because working alone will afford them greater freedom for creative expression. We argue that men will not experience the same boost in performance, and thus the spread of asynchronous teamwork has the potential to reduce gender disparities in performance. We explore this question in the context of folk-music ensembles in eastern India. After collecting ethnographic and interview data from folk musicians to develop our theory, we conducted a field experiment in which individual singers, men and women, recorded a song both synchronously and asynchronously with the same set of instrumentalists. This article contributes to the study of gender inequality, creativity, and the temporal restructuring of work.
Understanding network characteristics using a simple dataset
Using data from a Kyiv HIV survey, the authors present a method for mapping network characteristics using a simple survey question: “How many X’s do you know?”
Aggregated Relational Data (ARD), formed from “How many X’s do you know?” questions, is a powerful tool for learning important network characteristics with incomplete network data. Compared to traditional survey methods, ARD is attractive as it does not require a sample from the target population and does not ask respondents to self-reveal their own status. This is helpful for studying hard-to-reach populations like female sex workers who may be hesitant to reveal their status. From December 2008 to February 2009, the Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) collected ARD from 10,866 respondents to estimate the size of HIV-related groups in Ukraine. To analyze this data, we propose a new ARD model which incorporates respondent and group covariates in a regression framework and includes a bias term that is correlated between groups. We also introduce a new scaling procedure using the correlation structure to further reduce biases. The resulting size estimates of those most-at-risk of HIV infection can improve the HIV response efficiency in Ukraine. Additionally, the proposed model allows us to better understand two network features without the full network data: (a) What characteristics affect who respondents know, and (b) How is knowing someone from one group related to knowing people from other groups. These features can allow researchers to better recruit marginalized individuals into the prevention and treatment programs. Our proposed model and several existing NSUM models are implemented in the networkscaleup R package. Supplementary materials for this article are available online.
“Ethnographic lawyering” combines law and ethnography
Drawing on experience in legal cases resulting from the U.S. war on terror, the author uses “ethnographic lawyering” to investigate conspiracy theories involving Al Qaeda.
This article delineates a particular orientation to combining professional legal training and anthropological scholarship that I call ethnographic lawyering. Ethnographic lawyering takes legal form as an object of anthropological analysis, loosely inspired by the Marxist jurist Evgeny Pashukanis's theorization of law as a social relation. If ethnographic method in anthropology entails theorizing from the concepts and experiences of interlocutors, then ethnographic lawyering analytically centers the subjectivities, logics, and relationalities that legal form both presupposes and animates. Ethnographic lawyering brings to light the contingent lives of legal form. To demonstrate this method, the article uses the example of conspiracy in early US court cases involving Al Qaeda, informed by the author's experiences as an attorney and anthropologist in litigation arising from the war on terror. An ethnographic lawyering approach illuminates how conspiracy's distinct forms in criminal law, the law of evidence, and tort law each bring far-flung subjects, events, and actions together into reified entities even as they atomize and recombine social relations. This dynamic tension resembles the vertiginous nature of conspiracy theorizing in general.
Regional arms dealing in the American colonies
After independence, the U.S. became the dominant arms supplier—and dictator of terms—to revolutionaries in French and Spanish colonies in the Americas.
This essay argues that the international arms trade bound the revolutions in British North America, Saint-Domingue, and Spanish America in dependent relationships. Throughout the colonial era, an informal arms control regime made it impossible for Europe’s American subjects to mass-produce war material or buy enough on the open market to equip independence through war. As became clear by late 1776, even the hemisphere’s best-connected colonists could not overcome this obstacle. Only the decisions of France and Spain to secretly arm and then openly support the British North Americans made their revolution a success. But as France and Spain would soon come to realize, US independence fatally undermined the early modern arms control regime that had kept independence a practical impossibility in their own colonies. North American merchants became the indispensable arms dealers to the hemisphere’s later revolutionaries, first in Saint-Domingue and then across mainland Spanish America. Crucially, though, the United States never offered terms remotely as generous as those it had enjoyed during its own independence struggle. Rather than rely on imperial patronage or republican solidarity, Haitians and Spanish Americans had to navigate a cutthroat market to obtain the tools of independence. That comparative disadvantage would haunt their postcolonial histories.
Black Americans’ mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic
Two surveys focused on Black Americans’ mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic found that feelings of hopelessness, rather than fear of disease, were correlated with suicidal ideation, but that impacts were moderated by meaningful experiences.
The mental health experiences of Black Americans remain understudied in existing COVID-19 research. While several vital reports highlight disparate physical health outcomes—and even higher mortality rates among Black Americans—few queries have considered the current mental health concerns for this particular group. This investigation therefore examines correlates associated with experiencing suicidal ideation at the beginning (e.g., 2020) and in a later phase (e.g., 2022) of the COVID-19 pandemic. Study 1 includes responses from (n = 489) Black young adults ages 18–30 who completed online surveys from May 27 to June 24, 2020. Study 2 includes response from a separate, nationally representative probability-based sample of (n = 794) Black adults ages 18–88 who completed online surveys between April 21 and June 1, 2022. Participants’ fear of COVID-19, feelings of hopelessness, and perceptions regarding meaning in life were considered. Study findings indicate that hopelessness, but not fear of COVID-19, was positively associated with suicidal ideation in both studies. Further, presence of meaning in life was negatively associated with suicidal ideation during the past 2 weeks in Study 1 and was also associated with significantly lower odds of suicidal ideation during the past year in Study 2. Presence of meaning in life moderated the relation between hopelessness and suicidal ideation among participants in Study 1 only. Thus, having a sense of life purpose appears to be an important construct to consider when working to prevent suicide among Black Americans during the current global COVID-19 pandemic.