Adam Osman

Department of Economics
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
109 David Kinley Hall, 1407 W. Gregory
Urbana, IL 61801

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
Institutional Affiliation: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

NBER Working Papers and Publications

January 2019Measuring Productivity: Lessons from Tailored Surveys and Productivity Benchmarking
with David Atkin, Amit Khandelwal: w25471
We use tailored surveys and benchmarking in the flat-weave rug industry to better understand the shortcomings of standard productivity measures. TFPQ performs poorly because of variation in product specifications across firms. Controlling for specifications aligns TFPQ with lab benchmarks. We also collect quality metrics to construct quality productivity (the ability to produce quality given inputs) and find substantial dispersion across firms. This motivates interest in multi-dimensional productivity, or capability. As quality productivity is negatively correlated with TFPQ, TFPR may perform better at capturing capabilities in settings where better firms make products with more demanding specifications that have greater input requirements.

Published: David Atkin & Amit K. Khandelwal & Adam Osman, 2019. "Measuring Productivity: Lessons from Tailored Surveys and Productivity Benchmarking," AEA Papers and Proceedings, vol 109, pages 444-449. citation courtesy of

March 2018Dangers of a Double-Bottom Line: A Poverty Targeting Experiment Misses Both Targets
with Dean Karlan, Jonathan Zinman: w24379
Two for-profit Philippine social enterprises, aiming to demonstrate corporate social responsibility by increasing microlending to the poor, incorporated a widely-used poverty measurement tool into their loan applications and tested the tool using randomized training content. Treated loan officers were instructed why and how to use the tool for targeting; control group training merely labelled the tool “additional household information”. The targeting training backfired, leading to no additional poor applicants and lower-performing loans. Descriptive evidence suggests the targeting training exacerbated loan officer misperceptions and multitasking problems. Our results help explain why corporate social responsibility efforts are often siloed from core operations.
November 2014Exporting and Firm Performance: Evidence from a Randomized Trial
with David Atkin, Amit K. Khandelwal: w20690
We conduct a randomized experiment that generates exogenous variation in the access to foreign markets for rug producers in Egypt. Combined with detailed survey data, we causally identify the impact of exporting on firm performance. Treatment firms report 16-26 percent higher profits and exhibit large improvements in quality alongside reductions in output per hour relative to control firms. These findings do not simply reflect firms being offered higher margins to manufacture high-quality products that take longer to produce. Instead, we find evidence of learning-by-exporting whereby exporting improves technical efficiency. First, treatment firms have higher productivity and quality after controlling for rug specifications. Second, when asked to produce an identical domestic rug using the ...
December 2013Follow the Money: Methods for Identifying Consumption and Investment Responses to a Liquidity Shock
with Dean Karlan, Jonathan Zinman: w19696
Identifying the impacts of liquidity shocks on spending decisions is difficult methodologically but important for theory, practice, and policy. Using seven different methods on microenterprise loan applicants, we find striking results. Borrowers report uses of loan proceeds strategically, and more generally their reporting depends on elicitation method. Borrowers also interpret loan use questions differently than the key counterfactual: spending that would not have occurred sans loan. We identify the counterfactual using random assignment of loan approvals and short-run follow-up elicitation of major household and business cash outflows, and estimate that about 100% of loan-financed spending is on business inventory.

Published: Dean Karlan, Adam Osman, Jonathan Zinman, Follow the money not the cash: Comparing methods for identifying consumption and investment responses to a liquidity shock, Journal of Development Economics, Volume 121, 2016, Pages 11-23, ISSN 0304-3878, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdeveco.2015.10.009.

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