Democracy in India [with Pradeep Chhibber and Irfan Nooruddin; forthcoming with Cambridge University Press]

A survey of empirical social science literature on India that covers topics from party politics, federalism, the bureaucracy, to public goods provision.


Gender, Law Enforcement, and Access to Justice: Evidence from All-Women Police Stations in India

(Conditionally Accept, American Political Science Review)

Can gender-based "enclaves" facilitate women's access to justice? I examine all-female police stations in India, and test whether group-specific institutions assist gender violence victims and female bureaucrats in law enforcement. I create an unprecedented dataset based on millions of police-reports from 2015, and leverage the manner in which all-women police stations were opened in an Indian state to estimate their causal effect with a quasi-experimental design. I find that the creation of enclaves in law enforcement does not increase reported crime. In fact, the intervention lowers the case load at standard stations by justifying the deflection of gendered crimes, reduces responsibilities for policewomen, and increases travel cost for victims seeking redress. The institutions formalize the "counseling" of victims by encouraging reconciliation with abusers at the expense of case registration. A large-scale survey reveals a negative association between proximity to such institutions and perceptions of policewomen. Broadly, I argue that 'representation as separation' may fail to generate positive outcomes.

Do Female Bureaucrats Contribute to Institutional Legitimacy? Experimental Evidence from India [with Sharon Barnhardt]

(Under Review)

Several nations have established gender quotas in bureaucracies based on the intuition that institutional legitimacy will improve if the presence of women in public agencies is more reflective of the population. Research shows that women are rated higher on measures of fairness and trust, and so they may be seen as having qualities relevant for public institutions. However, we theorize that the ability for female bureaucrats to contribute to institutional legitimacy is moderated by the roles they are seen to perform. We test this in the context of Indian law enforcement using a large-scale survey (N 15,000), and with a novel video-based experiment implemented with the help of a news corporation - one of the few experiments on police legitimacy outside the United States. Consistent with our theory, we find that context matters. Counter-intuitively, policewomen are seen as more legitimate when tackling non-gendered cases compared to gendered crimes such as dowry harassment, especially by other women. The findings contribute to scholarship on gender and the conditions under which representation can improve trust in public officials.

Explaining the Marginalization of Female Bureaucrats: Evidence from Law Enforcement

(Under Review)

The barriers women face in unelected public institutions remains understudied, especially in the Global South. Using the case of law enforcement, and with the help of an original micro-level dataset of half a million police reports from India, I show that policewomen are disproportionately assigned non-prestigious cases. By classifying laws in India’s penal code, and with the help of an instrumental variable analysis, I demonstrate that not only are women slotted into tackling gendered cases, but also a particular subset: non-heinous gendered crimes, i.e. those seen to require `soft skills.' I argue that because policewomen are tasked with arbitrating sexual- or dowry-harassment cases, they are impeded from serving in high-prestige roles, investigating rape, or gaining opportunities to elevate their influence within the bureaucracy. Gender representation in bureaucratic agencies may be more likely to generate positive outcomes if it corresponds with an equitable division of labor. The findings have implications for research on occupational segregation, representative bureaucracy, and violence against women (VAW).

On-Going Projects

Do Cops Discriminate? An Experiment with Indian Police Officers (in collaboration with the Haryana Police)

Representation and Policing: A Text-as-Data Study of Crime in India

Does Ethnic Representation in Law Enforcement Affect Hate-Crime? Evidence from Policing in India