We examine height-for-age for 170,000 Indian and African children to understand why, despite two decades of sustained economic growth, the child malnutrition rate in India remains among the highest in the world. First, we show that Indian firstborns are actually taller than African firstborns; the Indian height disadvantage appears with the second child and increases with birth order. The patterns hold even when we only use between-sibling variation. Second, the birth order patterns vary with child gender and siblings' gender. Specially, the Indian firstborn height advantage only exists for sons. In addition, daughters in India with no older brothers show the sharpest height deficit relative to African counterparts; their parents are likely to have more children than planned in order to try for a son. These patterns suggest that the cultural norm of eldest son preference, which causes parents to differentially allocate resources across children by birth order and gender, keeps the average Indian child short.
Although understanding the role of race, ethnicity, and identity is central to political science, methodological debates persist about whether it is possible to estimate the effect of something ``immutable.'' At the heart of the debate is an older theoretical question: is race best understood under an essentialist or constructivist framework? In contrast to the ``immutable characteristics'' or essentialist approach, we argue that race should be operationalized as a ``bundle of sticks'' that can be disaggregated into elements. With elements of race, causal claims may be possible using two designs: (1) studies that measure the effect of exposure to a racial cue and (2) studies that exploit within-group variation to measure the effect of some manipulable element. These designs can reconcile scholarship on race and causation and offer a clear framework for future research.
Microfinance clients were randomly assigned to repayment groups that met either weekly or monthly during their first loan cycle, and then graduated to identical meeting frequency for their second loan. Long-run survey data and a follow-up public goods experiment reveal that clients initially assigned to weekly groups interact more often and exhibit a higher willingness to pool risk with group members from their first loan cycle nearly two years after the experiment. They were also three times less likely to default on their second loan. Evidence from an additional treatment arm shows that, holding meeting frequency fixed, the pattern is insensitive to repayment frequency during the first loan cycle. Taken together, these findings constitute the first experimental evidence on the economic returns to social interaction, and provide an alternative explanation for the success of the group lending model in reducing default risk.