Michael Callen

Michael Callen is a Research Programme Director for the IGC’s State research programme and a Responsive Policy Advisor.

He is an Associate Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. His recent work uses experiments to identify ways to address accountability and service delivery failures in the public sector. He has published in the American Economic Review, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, and the British Journal of Political Science. He is an Affiliate of Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD), the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD), the Jameel-Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), the Center for Economic Research Pakistan (CERP), Empirical Studies of Conflict (ESOC), and a Principal Investigator on the Building Capacity for the Use of Research Evidence (BCURE): Data and evidence for smart policy design project. His primary interests are political economy, development economics, and experimental economics.

Content by Michael Callen
  • Publication - Policy paper

    Using data to inform the COVID-19 policy response

    The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the biggest challenges the world has ever faced. Data can be used to target resources, forecast future needs, or evaluate decisions. Data collection should be guided by specific policy questions surrounding how to contain the disease, how to protect the vulnerable, and how to mitigate damage to economies. To better serve...

    17 Nov 2020 | Zeeshan Abedin, Emanuele Brancati, Michael Callen, Victoria Delbridge, Edward Glaeser, Sebastian Kriticos, Hina Shaikh

  • Blog post

    COVID-19 funding in federal systems: Lessons from Nepal

    With COVID-19, the federal governments of many developing countries are grappling with a crisis that requires both a central and local response. Coordinating across spheres can be tough, especially when the effects of the disease are amplified by other emergencies. Our survey of local governments in Nepal shows how mismatches between COVID-19 caseloads and funding can...

    27 Aug 2020 | Michael Callen, Rohini Pande, Trilochan Pokharel, Deepak Singhania

  • Project

    Preference parameters and public sector contracts: A field study with polio vaccinators in Pakistan

    Workers' time preferences can be measured using their intertemporal allocations of real work tasks and then used to individually customise incentive contracts. In a previous study, we worked with polio vaccinators in Lahore who travelled door-to-door to deliver polio vaccine. The intervention led both to better polio vaccine coverage and provided proof-of-concept that...

    1 Feb 2020 | Michael Callen, Yasir Khan, Karrar Hussain, Charles Sprenger

  • Publication - Evidence Paper

    IGC evidence paper - State effectiveness

    This evidence paper explores the key theme of state effectiveness. The central objective of this theme of research is building effective states to improve economic governance in developing countries and generate higher rates of inclusive growth. The first pillar of this research agenda centres on escaping the fragility trap, building a functioning state, strengthening...

    18 Dec 2019 | Oriana Bandiera, Michael Callen, Katherine E. Casey, Eliana La Ferrara, Camille Landais, Matthieu Teachout

  • Project

    Government mobile salary payments in Afghanistan

    Governments must pay their employees for states to function. The current salary payment system in Afghanistan involves a combination of cash transfers and bank-based electronic funds transfers (EFTs). It is subject to frequent delays and, in some cases, severe leakage. Mobile Salary Payments (MSPs) hold the potential to simplify and improve the payment process, as...

    11 Dec 2019 | Michael Callen

  • Publication - Project Report

    Decentralisation and candidate selection

    15 Nov 2018 | Rohini Pande, Michael Callen, Saad Gulzar, Soledad Artiz Prillaman

  • Project

    Decentralisation and candidate selection

    The recent local elections and decentralisation in Nepal pose an unprecedented opportunity to understand the impact of decentralisation on governance and service delivery. Nepal’s is one of the world’s most ambitious decentralisation processes, as it includes both political and fiscal decentralisation over a very short period of time. A key goal of decentralisation...

    18 Jan 2018 | Rohini Pande, Michael Callen, Saad Gulzar, Soledad Artiz Prillaman

  • Project

    Candidate attributes and political accountability: Evidence from Pakistan local government elections

    Political party-based local elections are widely advocated as key to strengthening democracy, and their outcomes can significantly impact local economic development. A randomised experiment to determine how locals in Punjab, Pakistan, choose to vote found that voters tend to prefer candidates with political connections over those who have proven to be competent,...

    25 Aug 2017 | Jacob Shapiro, Michael Callen, Ali Cheema

  • Blog post

    The role of election competition in strengthening Pakistan’s fledgling local democracy

    Using results and original survey data from the November 2015 local government elections in the Sargodha District of rural Punjab, Pakistan, insights are offered into the institutional and organisational responses that can help strengthen local democracy. These results form part of a larger research project being conducted by the Institute of Development and Economic...

    16 Mar 2017 | Asad Liaqat, Michael Callen, Ali Cheema, Adnan Khan, Muhammad Farooq Naseer, Jacob Shapiro

  • Project

    Community monitoring to address leakage in roads construction in Afghanistan

    Monitoring spending can reduce leakages and corruption in infrastructure spending. However, monitoring is difficult in conflict-ridden countries where government is weak.  We evaluated a Community Based Monitoring programme, which enlisted local volunteers to monitor the quality of rural road construction adjoining their villages. Road quality was measured...

    31 Jan 2017 | Michael Callen, Eli Berman, Tarek Ghani

  • Project

    Government mobile salary payments in Afghanistan (Project Expansion)

    In this project, researchers evaluated the introduction of mobile salary payments (MSPs) for employees in the Afghan Ministry of Labour, Martyrs, Social Affairs and Disabled (MoLMSAD). MSPs have the potential to decrease the amount spent on ‘ghost’ workers and increase satisfaction amongst bureaucrats by paying them more accurately and on time, and in turn,...

    6 Jul 2016 | Michael Callen, Tarek Ghani, Joshua Blumenstock

  • Project

    High-resolution measures of poverty and vulnerability in Afghanistan: Cost-effective solutions based on mobile phone data

    To make informed decisions, policymakers need accurate and timely information on the social and economic state of a nation and its population. Reliable measures of economic activity, population density, physical security, and migration are a few examples of information that play a critical role in guiding public policy. In Afghanistan and many other developing countries, it...

    7 Apr 2016 | Joshua Blumenstock, Tarek Ghani, Michael Callen, Jacob Shapiro

  • Publication - Working Paper

    Using preference parameter estimates to optimise public sector wage contracts: A field study in Pakistan

    28 Aug 2015 | Michael Callen, Karrar Hussain, Yasir Khan, Charles Sprenger

  • Blog post

    How employees’ personality types affect productivity

    Governments are the primary provider of services for the poor in developing countries. Yet these services are often inefficient. Evidence suggests that, in addition to financial incentives, employee personality tests can help improve public service delivery

    1 Dec 2014 | Michael Callen, Arman Rezaee

  • Publication - Project Memo

    Employee Personalities and Public Sector Performance (Project Memo)

    24 Nov 2014 | Michael Callen, Saad Gulzar, Yasir Khan

  • Project

    Employee personalities and public sector performance

    Absenteeism and low productivity among government employees in developing countries is notoriously high Doctors in some regions of Pakistan are absent up to 68% of the time Appointing staff identified via personality tests could improve productivity in a cost effective way Governments are the primary provider of services for the poor in developing...

    4 Sep 2014 | Michael Callen, Saad Gulzar, Yasir Khan, Ali Hasanain

  • Project

    Using preference parameter estimates to optimise public sector wage contracts: A field study in Pakistan

    Polio is a major problem in Pakistan with more than 300 confirmed cases reported in 2014 Weak monitoring and flat incentive structures are key reasons for the dismal quality of public vaccination campaigns This study uses mobile based monitoring and bonuses to improve performance of polio eradication campaign workers Polio is a major problem in...

    4 Sep 2014 | James Andreoni, Charles Sprenger, Michael Callen, Karrar Hussain, Yasir Khan

  • Multimedia Item - Video

    Video: Can a smartphone save an election?

    5 Feb 2013

  • Publication - Working Paper

    The Political Economy of Health Worker Absence: Experimental Evidence from Pakistan (Working Paper)

    30 Jan 2013 | Michael Callen, Ali Hasanain, Saad Gulzar, Yasir Khan

  • Publication - Policy Brief

    Bureaucratic Underperformance and Patronage: Evidence from Pakistan (Policy Brief)

    1 Jan 2013 | Michael Callen, Eli Berman, Ali Hasanain, Saad Gulzar, Yasir Khan

  • Project

    Monitoring the Monitors: Using ICT to improve government monitoring in Punjab, Pakistan

    In many developing countries, accurate data on resource utilization in public schools, hospitals, and other service facilities are rarely available. This creates two parallel sets of problems: First, a lack of data for process evaluation can lead to misallocations in medicine, human and other service delivery resources. Second, information bottlenecks between service...

    1 Mar 2012 | Michael Callen, Ali Hasanain, Saad Gulzar, Yasir Khan

  • Project

    Enabling Micro-savings Through Bank-Linked Mobile Phones in Sri Lanka

    After a decade in which the micro-credit sector has taken off worldwide, a great deal of interest is now focusing on the prospect of mobilizing micro-savings by pulling the liquidity of the poor into the formal banking sector. This interest is coming from several different sides. First, a new wave of technological innovations from mobile banking to ATM cards hold out the...

    1 Apr 2010 | Christopher Woodruff, Craig McIntosh, Suresh de Mel, Michael Callen