I am an economist and a law professor. I conduct research at the intersection of health economics and policy, economics and law, and economic development. My work in health economics focuses on medical innovation, health insurance, and the evolution and control of infectious diseases. My research in law and economics analyzes judicial decision making and, recently, the legal implications of blockchain. My projects in development economics focus on the economics of slums (informal settlements) and evaluate interventions using randomized controlled trials (RCT).
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have shifted my current research to focus on tackling the disease in India. My work has four strands: community testing for COVID, methods for estimating prevalence from observational data, modeling COVID to account for local dynamics and economic goals, and policy reforms to address the economic consequences of the pandemic. My research is motivated by work with different governments in India and the immediate problems they face. My colleagues and I have been fortunate to be acknowledged for our work via the Emergent Ventures Prize.
I believe that research is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Therefore, I have spent the last few years building an organization called the International Innovation Corps (IIC). The IIC helps governments and NGOs, initially in India, implement development projects. We provide project management and data analysis and help build organizational capacity.
You can download my most recent CV here.
Random community testing for COVID in India
I am assisting with two surveys to test for the prevalence of COVID in the community. One survey uses a random sample in the state of Karnataka and tests for both RNA and for presence of antibodies. In collaboration with Manoj Mohanan, Anu Acharya and Kaushik Krishnan, This study will link to CMIE data, which has years of socioeconomic data on each tested household. We hope both to estimate prevalence separately for the number infected and the number recovered. In addition, we hope to determine correlates of infection to understand which populations are more at risk. The second survey, conducted by the state of Bihar and in collaboration with Manoj Mohanan, tests a random sample of workers returning to the state after India partially exited from lockdown. These data provide a snapshot of all of India as workers hail from over 20 states. The results may be found here.
Adaptive Control of COVID in India
In this paper, we construct and simulate an SIR model to provide short term projections and policy recommendations at the district or ward level in India. The SIR model is probabilistic, has separate compartments for different locales, and accounts for movement across locales. We use Bayesian methods to update parameters daily and make short term (1 - 2 week projections of reproductive rate and infections). Projections can be found at www.adaptivecontrol.org. We simulate various policy rules, including one called adaptive control. Adaptive control has 3 components: (1) setting a target such as Rt < 1, (2) gradually modifying social distancing policy in response to the target, and (3) setting policy differently in different locales. We demonstrate that adaptive control does better than alternative strategies. We are presently working on incorporating economic objectives into the policy rule. This model has been used to provide recommendations to multiple states. This is a collaboration with Luis Bettencourt, Satej Soman, Sam Asher, Paul Novosad, Clement Imbert, Jon Gruber and others. This project won the Emergent Ventures Prize.
The Indian Health Insurance Experiment (IHIE)
The IHIE is large-scale RCT that examines the impact of India's national health insurance program, Ratriya Swasthya Bima Yojana. With over 150 million enrollees, it is one of the largest health insurance programs in the world. The study examines not only the health and financial outcomes associated with RSBY, but also spillover effects from the insured to the non-insured. Co-investigators on this project are Cynthia Kinnan, Alessandra Voena, Gabriella Conti and Kosuke Imai.
The Demand for Wage Insurance
One finding of the Indian Health Insurance experiment is that insurance utilization is low. One possible explanation is that, because rural Indians are day laborers, they lose wages when they visit the hospital. In this project we estimate demand for a wage insurance product that covers this loss. We are running an experiment in which we randomize villages to different prices for wage insurance. This project has two methodological innovations. First, we estimate bounds on demand using the methods of Tebaldi, Torgovitsky & Yang. Second, we choose price conditions to minimize these bounds. This project is joint with Aprajit Mahajan, Grant Miller, Pietro Tebaldi and Alex Torgovitsky.
The Economic Lives of Slum Dwellers
Jointly with Adam Chilton, this project examines the lives of residents in Mumbai's slums from an economics perspective. We examine how they obtain public and merit goods, how they make and enforce contracts, their residential choices, and their migration decisions. Because most slum residents are migrants from rural villages, we also examine whether and why there is a persistent urban wage premium, i.e., why more people do not migrate from rural areas into urban slums.
Son Preference and Female Migration in India
Female migration for marriage swamps male migration for labor in India. This project examines where women migrate. The main theory is that women migrate to generate implicit contracts between families to insure against agricultural shocks. This project adds a different theory, which is that women migrate to where there are more males. This, in turn, tends to equalize sex ratios (the ratio of males to females) at older ages across India.
The Mission Kakatiya Experiment
This is an RCT that evaluates Mission Kakathiya, which is a large-scale infrastructure project in Telangana State, India. The project's goal is to rehabilitate water tanks, to encourage more sustainable gravity-based irrigation rather than electricity-powered bore well irrigation. Along with Aprajit Mahajan and Xavier Gine, I study the impact of Mission Kakathiya on agricultural output, farmer livelihoods, and aquifer levels.
The Velocity Problem in Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)
ICOs that issue utility tokens to raise capital face the velocity problem. When tokens are intended as a medium of exchange, the Fischer equation implies that token price falls in token velocity, the time it takes to complete a transaction. This creates a conundrum: efforts to improve the blockchain by speeding transactions may reduce the value of a token. This paper explores how this problem affects the choice between simple markups and issuance of utility tokens to generate revenue. We also compare different technological solutions to control the velocity problem. This work is joint with Richard Holden.
We conduct our fieldwork with the help of the NGO PUKAR and their 'barefoot researchers', surveyors who are also residents of the slum. We work in both government-recognized (notified) and unrecognized (non-notified) sections of the slum.
Central and South India
Gulbarga and Mysore Districts, Karnataka State
With the help of IFMR and Nielsen, our Indian Health Insurance Experiment research team works predominantly in rural and peri-urban areas -- a total of 200 villages -- in these two districts.
Rural Telangana State
With the help of surveyors from J-PAL South Asia, we work with farmers living around water tanks that have been or will be rehabilitated under Mission Kakathiya.
Most recent publications
Kosuke Imai, Zhichao Jiang, Anup Malani, Causal Inference with Interference and Noncompliance in Two-Stage Randomized Experiments. Journal of the American Statistical Association (forthcoming 2020).
Eric Helland, Darius Lakdawalla, Anup Malani, and Seth Seabury. Unintended consequences of products liability: evidence from the pharmaceutical market. Journal of Law, Economics and Organization (forthcoming 2020).
Anup Malani. Still in Mortal Peril. Journal of Legal Studies (forthcoming 2020).
Anup Malani and Tomas Philipson. Labor Markets in Statistics: The Subject Supply Effect in Medical R&D. Journal of Human Capital (Summer 2019).
William Baude, Adam Chilton and Anup Malani, Making Doctrinal Work More Rigorous: Lessons from Systematic Reviews. University of Chicago Law Review (2017).
Amitabh Chandra, Michael Frakes, and Anup Malani. Challenges To Reducing Discrimination And Health Inequity Through Existing Civil Rights Laws. Health Affairs (2017).
Darius Lakdawalla, Anup Malani and Julian Reif. The Insurance Value of Medical Innovation. Journal of Public Economics 145 (2017) 94–102.
Anup Malani and Julian Reif. Interpreting Pre-trends as Anticipation: Impact on Estimated Treatment Effects from Tort Reform, Journal of Public Economics, 124: 1-17 (2015) (lead article).
Daniel Bennett, Chun-fang Chiang, Anup Malani. Learning During a Crisis: the SARS Epidemic in Taiwan, Journal of Development Economics, 112:1-18 (2015).
Ramanan Laxminarayan, Julian Reif, and Anup Malani. Incentives for Reporting Disease Outbreaks. PLoS ONE 9(3) (2014).
Maciej Boni, Allison Galvani, Abraham Wickelgren, and Anup Malani. Economic Epidemiology of Avian Influenza on Smallholder Poultry Farms, Theoretical Population Biology, 90:135-44 (2013),
Emir Kamenica, Robert Naclerio, and Anup Malani. Do advertisements affect the physiological efficacy of branded drugs? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2013).
Michael Eber, Ramanan Laxminarayan, Eli N. Perencevich and Anup Malani. Clinical and Economic Outcomes Attributable to Healthcare-Associated Sepsis and Pneumonia, Archives of Internal Medicine (Feb. 22, 2010).
Ward Farnsworth, David Guzior, and Anup Malani. Ambiguity about ambiguity: An empirical inquiry into legal interpretation. Journal of Legal Analysis, 2(1) (2010).
Anup Malani. Patient enrollment in medical trials: Selection bias in a randomized experiment. Journal of Econometrics, 144(2): 341-351 (2008).
Anup Malani. Valuing Laws as Local Amenities. Harvard Law Review, 121(5): 1273-1331 (2008).
Todd Henderson and Anup Malani. Corporate Philanthropy and the Market for Altruism. Columbia Law Review, 109(5): 571-627 (2009).
Anup Malani and Eric Posner. For-Profit Charities. Virginia Law Review, 93(8): 2017-2067 (2007).
Anup Malani. Identifying Placebo Effects with Data from Clinical Trials. Journal of Political Economy, 114(2): 236-256 (2006).
Anup Malani. Habeas Settlements. Virginia Law Review, 92(1): 1-68 (2006).
Richard Hynes, Anup Malani, and Eric Posner. The Political Economy of State Property Exemption Laws. Journal of Law and Economics, 47: 19-44 (2004).
Tomas Philipson and Anup Malani. Measurement Errors: A Principal Investigator-Agent Approach. Journal of Econometrics, 91:273 (1999).
Anup Malani, Satej Soman, Luis M. A. Bettencourt, Sam Asher, Paul Novosad, Cl ́ement Imbert, Vaidehi Tandel, Anish Agarwal, Abdullah Alomar, Arnab Sarker, Devavrat Shah, Dennis Shen, Jonathan Gruber, Stuti Sachdeva, and David Kaiser. Adaptive control of COVID-19 outbreaks in India: Local, gradual, and trigger-based exit paths from lockdown (May 2020), winner of the Emergent Ventures Prize.
Anup Malani, Manoj Mohanan, Chanchal Kumar, Jake Kramer, Vaidehi Tandel. Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 among workers returning to Bihar gives snapshot of COVID across India (June 2020), under review.
Frank Wen, Anup Malani and Sarah Cobey. The beneficial effects of vaccination on the evolution of seasonal influenza (April 2020), revision requested at Viral Evolution.
Anup Malani, Gabriella Conti, Kosuke Imai, Cynthia Kinnan, Morgen Miller, Shailendar Swaminathan, and Alessandra Voena. The Indian Health Insurance Experiment: A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of Hospital Insurance on Health (Feb 2020), under review.
Scott Baker and Anup Malani. Reducing Accuracy can Improve Regulatory Participation (Jan 2019), revision requested at Journal of Legal Studies.
Richard Holden and Anup Malani. The ICO Paradox: Transactions Costs, Token Velocity, and Token Value, NBER Working Paper No. 26265 (2019), revision requested at Management Science.
Anup Malani, Stacy Rosenbaum, Susan Alberts, and Beth Archie. Defining and Testing the Predictive Adaptive Response and Developmental Constraints Hypotheses (Mar 2020).
Cynthia Kinnan, Anup Malani, Alessandra Voena, Gabriella Conti, and Kosuke Imai. Selection and utilization in a large, public health insurance program: An evaluation of India’s Rastriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (February 2020).
Richard Holden and Anup Malani, Can Blockchain Solve the Hold-Up Problem in Contracts?, NBER Working Paper No. 25833 (2019).
Sonia Jaffe and Anup Malani, The Welfare Implications of Health Insurance, NBER Working Paper No. 24851 (2018).
Scott Baker and Anup Malani. Judicial Learning and the Quality of Legal Rules (January 2015).
Laszlo Jakab, Christian Leuz, and Anup Malani, The Nature and Development of Commercial Conflicts of Interest Disclosed in Medical Journal Articles (June 2013).
Richard Holden and Anup Malani. Allocating Scarce Information (June 2013).
Anup Malani. Does the Felony-Murder Rule Deter Crime? Evidence from FBI Crime Data (Jan 2002).
*This course helps students develop frameworks to tackle interdisciplinary public policy problems such as climate change, health care reform, and cybersecurity.
*Short courses for students in fellowship training
When I was beginning the Indian Health Insurance Experiment in 2013, a bureaucrat asked me why researchers like me were always coming to evaluate their projects rather than helping them do their projects better. What they wanted was not an academic grade, but assistance with improving their performance. Moreover, I realized that when research finds that a program has no impact, it is often difficult to asses whether it failed because the program was a bad idea, or because it was implemented poorly. Often it is the latter, in which case the right solution is not abandoning the policy but helping improve implementation.
Researchers don't have a lot of tools to help with that, so in 2013 I started the International Innovation Corps (www.iic.uchicago.edu). The IIC sends teams of people to help governments and NGOs implement development projects. We recruit people in the US and host countries who might otherwise go straight into the private sector, but who have talents that the civil sector needs. Our teams help with project management, analytics, and building organizational capacity. We primarily operate in India, but have done projects in Brazil and are exploring opportunities elsewhere in Latin America, as well as in Africa and Southeast Asia. In 2019 we started a data anlytics fellowship in the US to help local governments and non-profits find data science talent and help data scientists explore careers in the public and social sectors. The IIC currently has 45 associates in India working on more than eight different projects throughout India and 26 associates in the US. We are grateful for the support of our funders, which include or have included the Gates Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Tata Trusts, Edelweiss Foundation, Facebook, the WISH Foundation, and USAID.
Here is a sample of the 22 projects we have undertaken or are presently undertaking.
Helped support the COVID War Room in the Ministry of Health (2020).
Helped the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation develop a regulatory structure for 24 charter cities in northern India (2014).
Helped the National Skills Development Council develop and execute plans to finance job training for textile workers. The textile industry is a sector with a largely informal, 40 - 60 million person workforce and substantial employment churn (2014).
With the support of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, we helped the State of Haryana build a Management Information System (MIS) to operate its roughly 14,000 public schools. We used the MIS to reduce understaffing at schools from 40 to 20% (2015).
At the request of USAID, we helped the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry run a large social impact investment fund called Millennium Alliance (2015)
With the support of the Tata Trusts, we helped the State of Karnataka run three public insurance programs, including Rastriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, Arogayshree Vajpayee, and the Chief Minister's new traffic accident insurance program (2016)
With the support of the Gates Foundation we are helping the Administrative Staff College of India implement and evaluate interventions to reduce fecal contamination of Ghodavari river in Andra Pradesh (2016-2017)
With the support of the Tata Trusts, we are helping the Self Employed Women Association improve its processes for serving it 1.4 million members (2017)
University of Chicago Law School
June 2005 - present
Professor (until 2010)
Lee and Brena Freeman Professor (since 2011)
Harvard Law School
Sept. - Dec. 2008, Sept. 2008 - April 2009
Roscoe Pound Visiting Professor (2008-2009)
University of Virginia
June 2002 - May 2005
U.S. Supreme Court
July 2001 - June 2002
Law clerk to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
July 2000 - June 2001
Law clerk to Judge Stephen Williams