Human Trafficking Vulnerability Lab

I am the Co-Lead of the Human Trafficking Vulnerability (HTV) Project, a research project based at the University of California, Berkeley and York University (Canada). The lab employs experimental methods to study the impact of interventions designed to reduce vulnerability to human trafficking. Thus far, data has been collected in Nepal and Hong Kong.

With funding from Humanity United, USAID, US Department of Labor, Stanford University, Terres des Hommes, and Vanderbilt University, the HTV Project has tested the efficacy of interventions on the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices of populations that are either vulnerable to trafficking and labor exploitation or responsible for mitigating it. This includes the general public, law enforcement agents, employers, and migrant domestic workers.

Working Papers

Does Relative Deprivation Condition the Effects of Social Protection Programs on Political Attitudes? Experimental Evidence from Pakistan (with Katrina Kosec)

Why might citizens fail to reward incumbents for providing private goods? While extant literature on targeted government welfare programs has focused on attribution challenges and low levels of civic education and engagement, we offer an additional explanation related to perceived inequality, or the feeling that one is poor and deprived relative to other citizens. Leveraging a regression discontinuity design and a survey experiment, we identify the causal effects of a large cash transfer program in Pakistan when relative deprivation is and is not pronounced. When relative deprivation is not salient, cash transfers have little effect on attitudes toward government. However, when relative deprivation is salient, those receiving cash transfers experience increased support for their political leaders and institutions, while those denied transfers became more politically disgruntled. This has important implications for our understanding of the political ramifications of inequality and social protection programs in the context of rising inequality within countries

Can Natural Disasters Have a Rally ‘Round the Flag Effect? The Political Consequences of Nepal’s 2015 Earthquake (with Margaret Boittin and Stephen Utych)

Natural disasters have been shown to influence support for incumbent governments and political systems in a variety of circumstances. We argue that natural disasters can exhibit a “Rally ‘Round the Flag” effect, boosting support for incumbent governments, similar to that observed in international conflict. Leveraging an in-process data collection effort in Nepal that was interrupted by a major earthquake in April 2015, we find evidence that this disaster induced a rally effect. Post-earthquake, support for the political system in Nepal increased. We find this effect implementing both a quasi-experimental propensity score matching design and a pre-post test in which the same individuals were interviewed immediately before and after the earthquake. Moreover, this effect is mediated by increased feelings of national pride caused by the earthquake, demonstrating that a rallying effect is taking place. Our findings suggest that natural disasters can lead to at least a short-term boost in system support.

The Impact of Incidental Environmental Factors on Vote Choice: How Wind Speed Leads to More Prevention-Focused Voting (with Jon M. Jachimowicz, Jochen I. Menges, and Adam D. Galinsky)
[Available upon request]

Many theories of democracy propose that individuals deliberate their voting decisions. The current research challenges this notion by exploring how incidental environmental factors infiltrate voting decisions. We present a causal model for how wind speed on Election Day affects voting: Higher wind speed prompts a psychological prevention focus that sways voters more to select prevention-focused (e.g., reflecting a concern to avoid loss) over promotion-focused (e.g., reflecting a motivation to make gains) options when such a choice exists. Using a mixed-method approach—archival analyses (the “Brexit” vote, the Scotland independence referendum, 10 years of Swiss referendums, and 100 years of U.S. presidential elections), one field study, and one experiment—we find that individuals exposed to higher wind speed become more prevention-focused and more likely to support prevention-focused electoral options. The findings highlight the importance of incidental environmental factors for voting decisions, and speak to the benefit of non-voting day voting administration.

What is the Effect of Teaching in Underserved Schools on Beliefs About Education Inequality and Reform? Evidence from Teach for America (with Katharine Conn and Virginia Lovison)
[Available upon request]

What insights into education policy can we gain from individuals who teach in underserved schools? We take the case of Teach for America (TFA), and conduct a regression discontinuity analysis of an original survey of the 2007-2015 TFA cohorts to ask whether teaching in low-income communities alters individuals’ beliefs about education inequality and reform. We find that first-hand experience in underserved schools reduces beliefs that low-income students themselves (or their families) are to blame for income-based differences in educational achievement. Rather, TFA participants believe that widespread social inequality exacerbates income-based achievement gaps. When evaluating education reform strategies, TFA participants are no more likely, and at times less likely, than non-participants to believe that certain politically-charged policy levers can effectively reduce these inequalities. For instance, TFA participation decreases support for school choice policies. Instead, TFA participants are more optimistic about teachers’ potential to foster student learning, and are more supportive of early childhood education and wraparound services for low-income children. TFA participation also elicits greater optimism that the achievement gap is a solvable problem.

“Human Trafficking Vulnerability: An Experimental Intervention Using Mass Media to Change Norms and Behaviors in Nepal” (with Margaret Boittin)
[Available upon request]

What are the effects of mass media campaigns on norms and behaviors related to human trafficking? Namely, can mass media campaigns be employed to induce shifts in knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and practices (KABP) that will reduce the incidence of modern forms of slavery and assist victims of human trafficking? We find that narrative-based campaigns with positive appeals that aim to empower the audience are more effective than purely fact-based campaigns or campaigns aimed to scare the audience. Awareness campaigns can increase the likelihood that a person will recognize and report cases of human trafficking. They can also increase concern for human trafficking while decreasing misperceptions about human trafficking, and increase an individual’s willingness to discuss human trafficking with family and friends, donate money to the cause, and volunteer their time to anti-trafficking efforts. However, while exposure to awareness campaigns about the risks of human trafficking can effectively increase people’s sense that it is an important national problem, it does not alter perceptions about its local importance. If human trafficking is viewed as someone else’s problem, people may be less vigilant about mitigating their own human trafficking risks. This find speaks to the importance of creating content that is deeply contextualized and relatable to an individual so they see themselves reflected in the messaging. Moreover, without any follow-up campaigns, these effects nearly completely diminished over time. Results are currently published in a USAID working paper series, and we are currently writing a version of the report for an academic audience.

“Differential Reactions to Survey Incentives: A Comparative Assessment” (with Bhumi Purohit and Katharine Conn)
[Available upon request]

Do survey incentives that improve response rates in the United States and the Global North perform just as well in other countries? Studies on web survey recruitment have largely come to a conclusion that monetary incentives recruit a higher share of respondents than non-monetary responses. Though these findings largely come from the U.S. or Europe, scholars in other regions have relied on similar monetary incentives such as gifts or lotteries to recruit respondents. We test the assumption that monetary incentives are effective across cultures by running an incentives experiment in Australia, India, and the United States amongst a similar population of pro-social individuals in each country. We find that monetary incentives are effective in the U.S. and Australia, but Indians respond more frequently to charity appeals or descriptive appeals. An additional dictator game corroborates this finding, showing that Indians are much more likely to donate potential lottery winnings to charity than individuals from other countries. Our results suggests that incentives that have worked in Western settings cannot be transported to other settings without prior testing and a careful consideration of a country’s cultural or socioeconomic context.

Works in Progress

“The Impact of Youth Service on Beliefs, Mindsets, and Life Pathways: Evidence from Teach For All” (with Katharine Conn)

“The Impact of a Service-Focused Teaching Corps on Participants’ Career Pathways and Aspirations: Evidence from Teach for India” (with Katharine Conn and Virginia Lovison)

“The Effect of Teach for America on Voter Participation and Party Registration.”(with John Holbein and Julia Christensen)

“An Experimental Study of War Memories, Economic Standings and Refugee Acceptance” (with Ji Yeon Hong and Christopher Paik)

“Engendering Empathy Through Virtual Reality” (with Dan Archer)

“Law Enforcement and Human Trafficking Vulnerability: The Case of Nepal” (with Margaret Boittin)

“Understanding Decision Dilemmas” (with Jonathan Bendor and Benjamin Douglas)

“Cultivating Empathy One Text at a Time: The Case of Crisis Text Line” (Elizabeth Linos)

“The Etiology of Human Trafficking in Guatemala: Testing the Standard Narrative with Survey Data on Trafficking Survivors” (with William Mishler)

“Tolerance for Labor Exploitation: An Experimental Intervention Using Awareness Campaigns in China” (with Margaret Boittin)

“Differential Penalties for Imperfections: Negative Campaigns and Underrepresentation in Politics” 

“Sexism in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election: The Impact of Prejudice against Women (Leaders) on Voter Turnout and Candidate Choice” (with Jon Krosnick and Emily West)

Other Policy Relevant Working Papers

“What Appeals Are Most Effective at Recruiting Targeted Samples for Survey Research? (with Allison Archer)
[Available upon request]

“The Influence of Friends on Educational Attainment: How Having Friends with Educated Parents Promotes College Attendance” (with Elena Grewal)
[Available upon request]

“The Effect of Anti-Smoking Messages Volume and Sources on Motivation to Quit” (with Jon Krosnick and Neil Malhotra)
[Available upon request]