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Sandip Sukhtankar | Ideas for India

Sandip Sukhtankar
University of Virginia
sandip.sukhtankar@virginia.edu
Sandip Sukhtankar is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Virginia and an affiliate of the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD) and the Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). He received his PhD from Harvard University in 2009, and a BA from Swarthmore College (with Highest Honors) in 2000. He previously worked at Dartmouth College, the Brookings Institution and the Center for Global Development.

Prof Sukhtankar’s research interests are in development economics, political economy, and public economics, with a particular focus on corruption, governance, and the delivery of public benefits and services. Past papers have examined the political economy of sugarcane cooperatives, incentives for corruption in India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes, and a randomized evaluation of biometric ID cards in India. Current projects include randomized trials of large-scale government programs leveraging technology and direct transfers of cash in lieu of in-kind benefits in India.

Prof Sukhtankar’s research has been published in top economics journals such as the American Economic Review, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, and the Journal of Public Economics. His paper published in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy was awarded the Best Paper award by the American Economics Association. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Omidyar Network, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Articles By Sandip Sukhtankar
Price risk and poverty
Posted On: 15 May 2017


There is an ongoing policy debate in India on whether grain entitlements under PDS should be converted into cash transfers. This column shows that in the face of high price variability, in-kind transfers such as the PDS can be superior to cash transfers as they could significantly reduce the strength of the relationship between prices and caloric intake, hence, shielding households from price risk.
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What do we know about corruption in India?
Posted On: 16 Sep 2015

Topics:   Corruption

Despite ample media coverage of corruption, there remains a gap between headline-making scandals, policy options under discussion, and the actual evidence base drawn from empirical research on corruption. Based on an extensive review of the literature on corruption in India, this column highlights the underlying factors driving corruption, establishes a classification of corrupt activities, and distills five general principles that should guide future reform efforts.
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Building state capacity for better programme implementation: Lessons from the Andhra Pradesh Smartcard Programme
Posted On: 03 Dec 2014


Biometric payment systems are posited to reduce leakages in public welfare programmes but there is limited evidence on their effectiveness. This column presents evidence on the impact of the Andhra Pradesh Smartcard Programme on MNREGS and Social Security Pension beneficiaries, based on a large-scale randomised controlled trial. It finds substantial economic benefits, and concludes that using biometric payment infrastructure to deliver welfare payments can be a game changer for governance in India.
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Two questions about the 2G scandal
Posted On: 25 Mar 2013

Topics:   Corruption

The scandal involving corruption in the allocation of 2G licenses left the nation stunned. This column presents estimates of the revenue loss to the government, and says that while the common man was affected indirectly as social spending may have been reduced due to the losses, there was no direct negative impact on the telecom market in terms of lower quality of services or higher prices.
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Corruption and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
Posted On: 16 Jul 2012

Topics:   Corruption

Corruption continues to strangle India’s public finances. This column presents evidence of embezzlement in India’s flagship rural employment programme and suggests new ways policymakers can test what works in the struggle against corruption.
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