Payments and Governance Research Program

About the Program

India’s social policies and subsidy regimes are changing, shifting towards models of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) which seek to take advantage of the broader availability of bank accounts, biometric authentication (Aadhaar), and mobile phones. These changes raise basic questions about the impact of DBT models on public finances and on the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs.

The Payments and Governance Research team works to provide independent, rigorous and scientific evidence on these issues. We work closely with central and state governments to evaluate major reforms to social programming using large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) - the methodology recognized by the 2019 Nobel Prize in economics. We collect and analyze original and independent data directly from program beneficiaries - talking to over 75,000 households in over 20 sets of surveys across 7 states and 4 union territories in the last 10 years.

The team is led by academic researchers Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus, and Sandip Sukhtankar, and is hosted as part of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) South Asia, a part of the Institute for Financial Management and Research. We publish our findings in high-quality peer-reviewed scientific journals, as well as communicate them through policy writing in leading Indian publications, and workshops with senior policymakers in central and state governments

For more information about the program, visit their website.