Research Associate - Direct Benefit Transfers for Electricity

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) , Bihar, India

Skill Required:, Research and Analysis
Preferred Experience: 
1 to 3 Years
Closing Date for Applications: 
21st February, 2019

Job Description

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) seeks qualified applicants for positions as Research Associates for projects on agriculture, education, environment, finance, health, labor, and governance in locations around the world. The projects study a variety of topics within the previously listed fields. The positions offer an opportunity to gain first-hand field management experience in an organization undertaking cutting-edge development research. These positions are located primarily in developing countries around the world and the principal investigators are J-PAL affiliated professors.

Project Description:

Electricity subsidies for agriculture have been meant as a lifeline to farmers, allowing the widespread use of irrigation with electric pumps to extract groundwater. Instead, they have locked rural India into a destructive cycle of groundwater depletion and bad power supply. Farmers, given electricity for free, use too much, draining groundwater and worsening poverty (Sekhri, 2014). Meanwhile, because supplying below cost loses money, electricity distribution companies have to ration rural customers to stay afloat. These discoms (distribution companies) have a collective USD 100 billion of debt, and in many states supply rural areas only eight hours per day.

The question of this study is: can a change in delivery mechanism of agricultural subsidy to the farmers make both farmers and discoms better off? This study will design, implement and evaluate a subsidy delivery innovation that aims to make farmers better off while reducing discom losses and the subsidy burden on the state government. The scheme design offers farmers a lump-sum subsidy (a fixed amount per month) in exchange for agreeing to pay a full price for electricity. Because farmers would receive a lump-sum subsidy, they would be better off, since they could always use the money to buy the same power they got before. The discoms would be better off also, since the higher price per unit of energy would induce farmers to conserve power and water. The evaluation would then ask: what is the take-up of this alternate subsidy delivery mechanism? How much does the higher marginal price induce conservation of electricity and groundwater? How does its take-up affect the distribution company’s costs and losses and the farmer’s productivity?

Research Associate Roles and Responsibilities:

The RA will work closely with academic researchers and other field staff to perform a variety tasks including, but not limited to:

  • Designing survey questionnaires, conducting qualitative research, running pilot exercise, refining study design and surveying instruments.
  • Managing field teams: Recruit, train, and supervise both field-based and data operations teams consisting of project assistants, field managers, field-based surveyors, data entry operators and other field and office staff.
  • Overseeing implementation of the evaluation in accordance to the research design, in association with our partner organization.
  • Maintaining relationships with partner organizations at both headquarters and field levels Supervising data collection and data-entry, and ensuring data quality and productivity.
  • Assisting with data cleaning, preliminary data analysis, and preparation of documents and presentations for dissemination.
  • Reporting to PIs on all of the above mentioned activities.

Desired Qualifications and Experience:


  • A Bachelor’s degree in Economics (or related field) or Engineering
  • At least 1 year of work experience
  • Prior experience with field data collection is desired but not necessary
  • Familiarity with impact evaluations and randomized controlled trials is required
  • Excellent management and organizational skills along with strong quantitative skills
  • Fluency in Hindi and English and strong communication skills are required.
  • Flexible, self-motivating, able to manage multiple tasks efficiently, and a team player
  • Willingness to live in Bihar and travel extensively to study areas
  • Basic knowledge of STATA or other data analysis tool


  • Master’s degree in economics, engineering or related disciplines is preferred
  • Experience living in a developing country and/or liaising with government officials is a strongly desired but not necessary
  • Proficiency in STATA (or other tools such as R, SPSS etc.) is desired
  • Demonstrated ability to manage high-level relationships with partner organizations


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