Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation contains essays concerning informal institutions and their influence on economic outcomes in developing countries. Three types of informal institutions are discussed in each chapter: cultural groups in India consisting of religious and caste groups, traditional village chief institutions, and lastly, matrilineal and patrilineal norms in Malawi.

The first chapter investigates the role of group affiliation in determining married women's labor-supply in India. Despite the country's rapid economic growth, India's female labor-supply has been stagnant. In the literature, this phenomenon has been attributed to several demand- and supply-side explanations. Using a modified structural static female labor-supply model, this chapter analyzes a supply-side explanation of this phenomenon---the idea that cultural groups affect female labor-supply by influencing preference and fixed labor cost of entering the labor force. Group affiliations' effect on preferences and costs of economic decision has mostly been analyzed separately in the literature. Using data from the Indian Human Development Survey and a novel identification strategy, the chapter discusses the relative importance of preference relative to cost in creating labor-supply inequality across various cultural group affiliations (religion and caste).

In the second chapter, co-authors and I discuss the question of whether traditional village chiefs promote or restrict economic growth. Previous literature has not produced enough empirical evidence to achieve a consensus on this issue. Using data from the Malawi Integrated Household Survey, this chapter documents the additional empirical relationship between measures of chief power through land allocation and two measures of economic growth: agricultural misallocation of resources and consumption smoothing.

Lastly, the third chapter explores the allocation of agricultural inputs between husbands and wives in Malawi. Previous literature has suggested that resources are not allocated to achieve productive efficiency, with most evidence coming from African countries. Although the gender component of inequality in the distribution of resources has been documented, co-authors and I argue that the underlying marital sorting of partners also contributes to more or less resource misallocation. We show that in matrilocal regions, where land is passed through the daughter and kept by the wife upon divorce, couples exhibit more positive assortative matching and less resource misallocation among spouses.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

George-Levi Gayle

Committee Members

Robert Pollak, Limor Golan, Carl Sanders, Sanghmitra Gautam,


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Available for download on Monday, May 15, 2119

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Economics Commons