Selected Research Proposals

Of the 14 projects selected for TCD funding, 4 full scale research projects have been selected.

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Indian Climate Prospectus

Amir Jina, Michael Greenstone, Solomon Hsiang, Robert Kopp

Weather and climate shape the Indian economy. Temperature and precipitation affect such diverse outcomes as agricultural yields, human health, labor productivity, energy consumption, crime, and conflict. This project will build upon a multi-year research agenda by the Climate Impact Lab that has developed cutting-edge methods for analyzing climate risks and climate change adaptation globally by completing a detailed analysis specific to the Indian context. Based on empirically-founded climate response functions across multiple sectors, it will serve as a powerful tool to inform policymakers about where and how to direct resources to cope with extreme weather, where to invest to adapt to climate change in the future, and how much of that risk can be mitigated by adopting policies to reduce greenhouse gases today.


Measuring the Causes of Water Pollution and Developing a Tool for Pollution Regulatory Compliance in India’s Rivers using Real-time Data from Mobile Sensors

Supratik Guha, Anup Malani, Tanima Datta, Hariprabhat Gupta

More than 500 million people live along the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, which are the focus of major national interventions designed to improve water quality. To aid in these efforts, this project will provide new evidence on pollution sources, measurement, and regulation. Specifically, the researchers will quantify the contribution of four main pollutants in the Ganges and Yamuna: debris, human waste, agricultural runoff, and industrial waste. Second, in order to understand the effects of state policies, they will test whether sources of pollution concentrate just upstream of state borders. Finally, they will develop a new, more cost-effective method of measuring surface water pollution in rivers, lakes and reservoirs throughout India using mobile sensors.



Designing Scalable Incentives to Combat Diabetes

Rebecca Dizon-Ross, Shilpa Aggarwal, Ariel Zucker

India is facing diabetes epidemic. In 2010, diabetes led to the death of more than 1 million Indians and imposed a cost of $38 billion—2 percent of GDP—on the Indian healthcare system. These costs are expected to rise sharply in the coming decade, yet research shows that lifestyle changes can prevent the disease as well as help patients avoid serious and long-term complications. The result is a dramatic reduction in costs. This project builds on recent efforts of the Tamil Nadu government to promote lifestyle change among populations at risk for diabetes. In particular, the researchers will use a field experiment to better understand how financial incentives can improve uptake of these measures, and which incentive designs are most effective.



Salivary DNA as a diagnostic tool in Oral Cavity Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Nishant Agarwal, Anil K. D'Cruz

This project would pilot and launch a novel approach to diagnosing Oral Cavity Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OCSCC), which is a leading cancer and cause of death among men in India. Most cases of OCSCC are diagnosed at an advanced stage with poor survival and quality of life outcomes. Evidence suggests that this form of oral cancer can be diagnosed early and treated as localized tumors leading to better overall prognosis and dramatically lower treatment costs, which would reduce mounting financial strains on the Indian healthcare system. The researchers will develop a salivary DNA kit for simple, low- cost screening that could be used in high-risk patients to identify pre-cancerous lesions when they can still be addressed with simple interventions. The tool could directly inform Indian public health initiatives focused on oral cancer and eventually benefit at-risk populations around the globe.



Selected Pilot Projects

Pilot projects are typically the first phase of a potentially broader research project. In some cases, researches aim to conduct an early trial or component of the project. In others, project funding would support an assessment of data availability or partnership formation.


Long-run Environmental Quality and Human Capital Formation: Experimental Evidence from Schools in Delhi

Koichiro Ito, Amir Jina, Thomas Talhelm

Air pollution in Delhi has reached crisis levels, and now ranks highest in the world according to the WHO. Recent research has shown the effect of short-term exposure to air pollution on human capital formation. Yet, given the importance of human capital development as an input to economic growth, it is also essential to understand long-run effects. This project aims at using a randomized control trial to identify the impact of air pollution on human capital formation. The researchers aim at installing air purifiers in primary schools throughout Delhi, and then measure both short- and long-run educational outcomes, as well as attendance and other behaviors. Funding is requested for piloting, research design, and partnership formation.



Collaborations for Impact in Education (CFI-Ed) IndiA

John List, Dana Suskind

This project aims at bringing together researchers and innovators in India and across the world to collaborate for identifying promising solutions to India’s most pressing educational challenges. The objective of this proposal is to build an infrastructure (the Collaborations for Impact in Education, CFI-Ed) that will empower stakeholders (e.g., researchers, funders and policymakers) to efficiently address those problems through cutting edge research techniques. The program builds on a similar network being developed in the United States.


The Effects of India’s Car Tax Policy on Air Pollution, Market Competition, and Welfare

Koichiro Ito

India’s car market is one of the fastest-growing in the world, with annual sales having doubled from 1.4 million to more than 3 million over the past decade. At the same time, vehicles contribute a sizeable share of India’s high levels of air pollution, particularly in cities. In recent years, India has altered its vehicle tax policy numerous times. The current policy varies vehicle tax by size, with tax decreasing by vehicle size. This project seeks to evaluate the effects of this tax structure on air pollution, social welfare, and market structure in order to understand the implications for optimal tax policy.

Improving Property Tax Collection in South Delhi: Reducing Property Owner and Monitor Incentives to Misreport

Wendy Wong, Yusef Neggers

The tax-to-GDP ratio in India was 17.2 percent in 2013, roughly half that of the OECD country average, and these taxes were collected primarily through indirect means, which tend to be regressive. This project aims to address a fundamental constraint to the India’s ability to collect taxes—the absence of high quality administrative data on the set of properties eligible to be taxed. The researchers will partner with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) as part of its effort to create an all-encompassing database of properties that will strengthen its ability to collect property taxes. The researchers will use a field experiment to assess whether randomizing inspections of surveyor reports leads to improved accuracy of property reporting.


Quantifying Inefficiency in Indian Electricity Supply

Fiona Burlig, Akshaya Jha, Louis Preonas

Electricity use in India will rise by more than 5 percent per year through 2040, according to the IEA. This project aims at studying the extent to which the Indian electricity market—which has delicensed power generation, open access to the power grid, and wholesale markets—compares with a perfectly competitive benchmark, which will help policymakers better understand where improvements can still be made in Indian electricity supply. The research will identify which, if any, plants are being inefficiently dispatched, generating information that can be used to keep costs down for Indian consumers. It will also empirically identify cases where the value of additional transmission capacity is likely to exceed the costs of construction. Finally, this work will quantify the social costs of Indian electricity generation at a highly localized level, putting new data in the hands of policymakers who are currently working on setting emissions standards for thermal power plants.

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Information Gaps and School Choice among Low-Cost Private Schools in India

Rebecca Dizon-Ross, James Berry, Maulik Jagnani

The Indian primary school system faces significant challenges, particularly in public schools. As a result of perceived lower quality of education in public schools, there has been, in recent years, a large increase in private school enrolment matched by corresponding decrease in public school enrolment. School choice in these contexts is a key component in the human capital formation of children. In fact, academics and policy makers have warned that given the substantial heterogeneity in school quality, incomplete or imperfect information can lead to extractive, money-making private schools with sub-par educational offerings. This project will be the first step toward a comprehensive assessment of information gaps, estimate the long-term impact of information provision, and analyze the determinants of school choice among the poor in India and other developing countries.


Solar Mini-grids: Estimating Economic and Social Performance

Anant Sudarshan, Jenna Allard, Connor Dowd

Nearly 250 million Indian households lack access to electricity, despite billions of dollars spent on power projects and multiple government programs and mandates. Fulfilling the promise of universal access will require a staggering investment in new power generation infrastructure. In an effort to mitigate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that come from fossil fuels, the government in India has committed to invest in renewable energy, both grid-scale and distributed. As a result, private developers are rushing to fill the electrification gap with an array of off-grid solar products, a sector that is expected to see rapid growth through 2020. This project will provide new evidence on both costs and benefits of solar mini-grids by partnering with one of the largest players in the Indian solar mini-grid market.

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Consequences and Benefits of Targeted Subsidies: Evidence from a School Uniform Program

Anjali Adukia

India is home to 25 percent of the world’s out-of-school children. Girls are disproportionally affected, with one in four not completing primary school. This project will use data from an Indian program that required villages to provide free uniforms to girls and lower-caste students to determine the impacts of reducing school costs on enrollment.


Land Policy, Equity and Efficiency in Developing Country Cities: Evidence from the Redevelopment of Mumbai Textile Mills

Nick Tsivanidis, Michael Gechter

Observers have consistently criticized urban land policy in India as inefficient, failing to capture the potential benefits of agglomeration and promoting low-density cities characterized by slums, unused land, congestion and sprawl. To this point, however, there has not been a comprehensive attempt to characterize the net benefits of alternative land policies. This project will fill this gap by evaluating the aggregate and distributional effects of a substantial land policy change implemented from 2000 to 2015 in Mumbai, which allowed 15 percent of central city land previously tied up in defunct textile mills to become redeveloped into high-density formal floor space. Researchers will combine frontier machine learning algorithms with satellite images to measure the change in formal and informal housing in Mumbai during the policy period.


Can Employee Networks Improve Innovation in the Indian IT Services Sector?

Michael Gibbs, Friederike Mengel, Christoph Siemroth

Information technology (IT) services is one of the largest sectors in the Indian economy, and major Indian IT services companies rank among the world’s leaders, especially in business process outsourcing (BPO). However, BPO has increasingly become competitive and commoditized, with Indian IT companies facing significant competition from firms in other countries in Asia, including Russia, and elsewhere. In response, Indian companies are attempting to transform their organizations to work more closely with their customers and become their innovation partners, which requires changes in organizational structure, corporate culture and talent management. This project will evaluate one such program to assess the impact of the internal social network on innovation and idea generation.