Amen Jalal

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I am a 4th year PhD student in economics at the London School of Economics (LSE), where I am affiliated with the Hub for equal representation (HER) and the Economics of Environment and Energy (EEE) Programme at STICERD.

I have a Bachelors in economics from Yale University.

Before starting the PhD, I worked at the World Bank as a research assistant at DIME and ID4D.

I am also a Graduate Student Fellow at CERP, Pakistan.

I have ongoing work on gender inequality in low income countries, including on female labor force participation, and cash transfer programs for women. I also work on studying the impacts of, and adaptation to climate change in low income countries.

Works in progress

How the rural poor cope with a climate catastrophe: Evidence from Pakistan’s 2022 floods

(with Pol Simpson)

One year follow-up completed; supported by the IGC, STEG and Center for International Development at Harvard University

Click for abstract Extreme weather events are increasingly common as a result of climate change. Yet little is known about how exceptional climate shocks affect the lives of those most vulnerable to them, or about the barriers they face to moving out of harm's way. In this project, we study the effects of the 2022 flooding in Pakistan, which has affected 33 million households and left one third of the country under water. We leverage pre- and post-flood panel data on a random sample of 5,000 low-income, rural households across 6 districts of Sindh, who vary in their local exposure to the 2022 floods. We study (i) how floods impact these households, (ii) what decisions they make to cope with the immediate consequences of this shock, and (iii) what forces shape their forward-looking adaptation decisions. We exploit plausibly random local variation in flood water inundation – i.e., precipitation interacted with topography – conditional on historical likelihood of inundation and district fixed effects. Our outcomes include flood damages (e.g. loss of income or assets, health impacts, and disruption of social networks and trade), coping strategies (e.g. drawdown of savings, sale of assets, new loans, increased labour supply, changes to educational or nuturitional investments) and adaptation (e.g. diversification of networks or assets, and migration).


When job offers out-pace the marriage market: Labour supply of college educated women in Pakistan

(with Oriana Bandiera and Nina Roussille)

Experiment and two follow-ups completed; supported by HER, STICERD, and RISF at LSE

AEA registry

Click for abstract Over the past 25 years, while access to college education has increased for women in Pakistan, female labor force participation (FLFP) has remained stagnant; only 33% of college-educated women participate in the labor force. In June 2022, we surveyed the entire graduating cohort (2,200 students) of a large private university in Lahore. Strikingly, we found that virtually all female students intended to work after college, and believed themselves to be about as likely as their male peers to find a job within 6 months. However, 6 months later, only 48% of female students were in the labor force and only 34% were gainfully employed. In contrast, 85% of men were in the labor force and 60% of them were employed. This is despite the fact that women on average had a higher GPA, and conditional on applying, received job offers at the same rate as men. We test one potential channel explaining why women’s LFP falls short of their expectations: the timing of their job applications. Specifically, we test whether encouraging women to apply to jobs right after graduation leads to higher LFP. At baseline, we observed that while men’s labor market outcomes do not depend on the timing of their applications, women’s chances of LFP and employment double if they started applying to jobs earlier. However, most students – especially women – did not start applying to jobs until a few months after graduation. Meanwhile, women started receiving marriage offers shortly after graduating and reported growing pressure from their families to consider these offers imminently. If marriage offers arrive faster than job offers – and women get engaged or married before they start work – they may never work. Conversely, if a woman is already employed when she enters the marriage market, she is unlikely to receive offers from men who find a working woman unsuitable, thus shifting the composition of marriage offers in favor of sustained FLFP. To test how the timing of job search affects FLFP, we are running this experiment with 2,100 students graduating from Pakistan’s largest (public) university.


Can market competition reduce corruption? Evidence from cash transfers in Pakistan

(with Muhammad Haseeb and Kate Vyborny)

Analysis ongoing; supported by the World Bank’s ID4D and the Gates Foundation

Policy brief

Click for abstract We study whether market competition between public officials can reduce corruption. We exploit exogenous changes to the market structure of payment delivery agents in Pakistan's Benazir Income Support Programme to assess impacts on corruption in the delivery of these cash transfers. We find that a payment reform that led to exclusive reliance on payment delivery agents increased reports of side payments paid involuntarily to access the cash transfer. However, higher market competition between these rent-seeking agents reduced extensive and intensive margin demand for bribes.


What happens when cash transfers suddenly stop? Quasi-experimental evidence from Pakistan

(with Nasir Iqbal, Mahreen Mahmud, Kate Vyborny)

Analysis ongoing; supported by IFPRI and IPA

Click for abstract A growing body of evidence shows mostly positive impacts of cash transfers for women on a range of outcomes. However, there is limited work, empirical or theoretical, on what happens when long running unconditional cash transfers stop. Cash transfers may stop for a given household either because their economic position has improved and they no longer meet the eligibility criterion, or because of cuts to the funding pot resulting in a more stringent eligibility criterion. Since cash transfer programs are costly and may not be expected to provide support permanently, understanding how households cope when cash transfers stop is crucial. In this study, we use a regression discontinuity approach to examine the impact of the discontinuation of cash transfers on households in Pakistan who have been receiving transfers over a ten year period.


General equilibrium effects of a billion trees: Evidence from Pakistan

(with Veronica Salazar-Restrepo)

Analysis ongoing; Supported by the IGC

Click for abstract Several countries are investing large sums of money in nation-wide tree planting programs as part of their climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. However, there is limited evidence on the impacts of such programs on livelihoods and ecosystems. These programs may disrupt ecosystems and agriculture, deplete water supplies, displace local communities, and lead to more deforestation in other areas. Conversely, planting the right species of trees at the right place can sequester carbon, regenerate forests, and provide ecosystem services like flood prevention. In this project, we focus on Pakistan's Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Programme (BTTAP), which planted 1 billion trees in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. First, we employ the AVOCADO remote-sensing algorithm to measure forest regrowth at high resolution (30m pixels) in order to measure the effectiveness of the program (Decuyper et al. 2022). Second, we also gather environmental data on wind, fires, temperature, precipitation, and pollution and combine it with administrative data on socioeconomic outcomes in order to measure ecological spillovers of the program in neighboring areas. Finally, we incorporate these spillovers in a general equilibrium framework to analyze whether the program displaced existing economic activities like agriculture.


Teaching