Matt Lowe is a Postdoctoral Fellow at briq having completed his PhD at MIT, and will be joining the University of British Columbia as an Assistant Professor of Economics in 2019. His research is at the intersection of development, political economy, and behavioural economics. His ongoing work uses field and natural experiments to explore the consequences of intergroup contact in India and Iceland, the role of intra-household barriers to communication in lowering female labour force participation in India, and the importance of exposure for political careers in the UK. His aspirational work studies preference formation of elite Indian bureaucrats, and pricing decisions among small-scale Delhi entrepreneurs.

working papers

Integration is a common policy used to reduce discrimination, but different types of integration may have different effects. This paper estimates the effects of two types of integration: collaborative and adversarial. I recruited 1,261 young Indian men from different castes and randomly assigned them either to participate in month-long cricket leagues or to serve as a control group. Players faced variation in collaborative contact, through random assignment to homogeneous-caste or mixed-caste teams, and adversarial contact, through random assignment of opponents. Collaborative contact reduces discrimination, leading to more cross-caste friendships and 33% less own-caste favoritism when voting to allocate cricket rewards. These effects have efficiency consequences, increasing both the quality of teammates chosen for a future match, and cross-caste trade and payouts in a real-stakes trading exercise. In contrast, adversarial contact generally has no, or even harmful, effects. Together these findings show that the economic effects of integration depend on the type of contact.

Many legislative chambers are segregated along party lines, limiting cross-party interaction. Would there be less polarization if politicians were physically integrated? This paper tackles this question by exploiting random seating in Iceland’s national Parliament. Since almost all voting is along party lines, we use a text-based measure of language similarity to proxy for the similarity of beliefs between any two politicians. Using this measure, we find an in-coalition effect: language similarity is greater for two politicians that share the same political coalition (government coalition or opposition) than for two politicians that do not, suggesting that the measure captures meaningful partisan differences in language. Next, we find that when two MPs randomly sit next to each other, their language similarity in the next parliamentary session (when no longer sitting together) is significantly higher, an effect that is roughly 16 to 25 percent of the size of the in-coalition effect. The persistence of effects suggests that politicians are learning from their neighbors, not just facing transient social pressure. However, this learning does not reflect the exchange of ideas “across the aisle”. The effects are large for neighbors in the same coalition group, at 29 to 53 percent of the in-coalition effect, with no evidence of learning from neighbors in the other group. Based on this evidence, integration of legislative chambers would likely slow down, but not prevent, the ingroup homogenization of political language.

Women in the developing world often lack the power to make key household decisions. This comes at a cost – myriad evidence suggests that the preferences of women are more aligned with development goals than those of men. We use a field experiment to test whether the lack of decisionmaking power of wives in India is due to a lack of information, or a lack of communication with husbands. We partnered with India’s largest carpet manufacturer to offer employment opportunities to 495 married women. Gender differences in preferences meant there was an intra-household tension: women were often interested in working outside of the home, while their husbands opposed the idea. We experimentally varied how the job opportunity was presented to couples. To test for the effects of information, and the incentives of husbands to withhold it, we randomized whether enrollment tickets and job information were given to the women or to their husbands. For the nontargeted spouse, we cross-randomized whether they were informed about the job opportunity, giving variation in whether husbands had plausible deniability. To test for the importance of communication, some couples received the ticket and information together, with a chance to discuss the job. Overall, enrollment was low at 17%. Information was not a barrier to enrollment – providing women with information about the opportunity had no effect because husbands did not strategically withhold information, despite having plausible deniability. Surprisingly, we find that having couples discuss the opportunity together decreased enrollment, by 6 to 9 percentage points. We conclude that policymakers should tread with care: intra-household communication may not be easily manipulated without unintended consequences for decision-making.

research fields

Development Economics

Political Economy

Behavioral Economics