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The “Discouraged Worker Effect†in public works programs: Evidence from the MGNREGA in India

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  • Narayanan, Sudha
  • Das, Upasak
  • Liu, Yanyan
  • Barrett, Christopher B.

Abstract

This study investigates the consequences of poor implementation in public workfare programs, focusing on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in India. Using nationally representative data, we test empirically for a discouraged worker effect arising from either of two mechanisms: administrative rationing of jobs among those who seek work and delays in wage payments. We find strong evidence at the household and district levels that administrative rationing discourages subsequent demand for work. Delayed wage payments seem to matter significantly during rainfall shocks. We find further that rationing is strongly associated with indicators of implementation ability such as staff capacity. Politics appears to play only a limited role. The findings suggest that assessments of the relevance of public programs over their lifecycle need to factor in implementation quality.

Suggested Citation

  • Narayanan, Sudha & Das, Upasak & Liu, Yanyan & Barrett, Christopher B., 2017. "The “Discouraged Worker Effect†in public works programs: Evidence from the MGNREGA in India," IFPRI discussion papers 1633, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:ifprid:1633
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Das, Upasak & Maiorano, Diego, 2019. "Post-clientelistic initiatives in a patronage democracy: The distributive politics of India’s MGNREGA," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 239-252.
    2. Cerciello, Massimiliano & Agovino, Massimiliano & Garofalo, Antonio, 2019. "The caring hand that cripples? The effects of the European regional policy on local labour market participation in Southern Italy," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 68(C).
    3. Narayanan, Sudha, 2021. "Food security from free collection of foods: Evidence from India," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 100(C).
    4. Agovino Massimiliano & Garofalo Antonio & Cerciello Massimiliano, 2019. "Do Local Institutions Affect Labour Market Participation? The Italian Case," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 19(2), pages 1-21, April.
    5. Jain Ritika, 2021. "Information and Communication Technology Adoption and the Demand for Female Labor: The Case of Indian Industry," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 21(2), pages 695-722, April.
    6. Deininger, Klaus & Liu, Yanyan, 2019. "Heterogeneous welfare impacts of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme: Evidence from Andhra Pradesh, India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 98-111.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    wages; labor; social protection; social safety net; Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme; administrative rationing; discouraged worker effect; employment guarantee; J08 Labor Economics Policies; J38 Wages; Compensation; and Labor Costs: Public Policy;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J08 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics Policies
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy

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