Research Associate - Behavioral Economics Research Lab Chennai

Language Requirement 
Length of Commitment 
One year
Start Date 

Job Description

Dr. Frank Schilbach (MIT), Dr. Heather Schofield (University of Pennsylvania), and Dr. Gautam Rao (Harvard) are hiring Research Associates to oversee a behavioral research lab in Chennai, India. These roles require both management and research skills, as well as flexibility and comfort working abroad for extended periods. The lab is made up of roughly 20 to 30 local staff members working in two offices. The research associates will manage the day-to-day operations of the lab, and will be responsible for the administration of the RCTs, as well as exploratory work to develop new research. Management responsibilities include hiring and overseeing staff, managing survey and laboratory task administration, and data systems management. RAs must balance strong leadership to keep the staff on task, while also monitoring the progress of the study via data analysis and checks. Close attention to detail and perseverance are required when facing the dynamic challenges that arise as the studies progress.

Developing exploratory work requires the capacity to build strong connections with new potential partners and representing the projects and the lab in such a way that forges meaningful and professional partnerships. This requires a deep understanding of the projects that we work on, and the ability to speak confidently and comfortably with individuals of a range of authority - from government officials to security guards of a company.

The RA responsibilities also require a solid understanding of a variety of research methodologies, as well as strong management skills. You will be in constant contact with the research team, but they will only visit the site on occasion. Project-related decisions often need to be made in a timely and independent manner; the successful RA will think through such decisions carefully, but then decisively move forward with a plan of action.

The current research associates will continue into the late spring/early summer. Hence, earlier start dates are preferred to enable ample time for on-the-job training and acclimatization to living in Chennai.


Our group focuses on research at the intersection of development and behavioral economics. We are hoping to build on an existing research agenda which explores the potentially bidirectional relationship between living in poverty and cognitive function/decision-making and productivity.

Past projects of the lab have focused on the effect of alcohol consumption and lack of nutrition on health outcomes, labor market outcomes, cognitive functions and broader decision-making, such as savings choices. These projects have found striking results. For example, higher caloric consumption not only increases productivity, but also improves cognitive function and changes decision-making -- for example, participants in the treatment group receiving more food became less impatient.

Currently the lab is building on these early results to consider other aspects of life in poverty which may have similar effects -- for example, one study that is underway examines how chronic sleep deprivation impacts labor market outcomes, cognitive function, and broader decision-making, such as savings choices as well as mental and physical health.

Identifying and quantifying the effects of these largely unexplored aspects of human capital can help us identify the pathways to break potential feedback loops and help individuals escape poverty.

Key Responsibilities

The Research Associate will work closely with the Principal Investigators and other field staff to perform a variety tasks including, but not limited to:

  • Supervising and coordinating field research activities
  • Supervising data collection and data-entry
  • Cleaning and managing datasets • Conducting statistical analysis using Stata
  • Preparing literature reviews, background research, and other draft content for grant proposals
  • Manage team: Recruit, train, and supervise research assistants, field researchers, as well as general operational activities
  • Communicate with partner organizations
  • Directly report to and work together with PIs on all of the above mentioned activities

Desired Qualifications

  • A Bachelor's/Master’s degree in Economics or other related social sciences with substantial quantitative work preferred
  • Excellent academic record from a top-tier university
  • Knowledge of Stata is strongly preferred
  • Strong organizational skills, excellent written and verbal communication skills required
  • Familiarity with randomized controlled trial
  • Excellent command of Microsoft Office suite (Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)
  • Fluency in English is required; Tamil proficiency is beneficial but not required

How to Apply

Applicants must submit at least 2 letters of recommendations, a cover letter, and a resume. The cover letter should briefly describe your experience (if any) in developing countries, your reason for seeking this position and earliest available start date. Short-listed applicants will be required to participate in multiple interviews. All applicants would need to commit to a minimum of 12 months in Chennai.

Application is rolling. Early applications are strongly encouraged and interviews will start on a rolling basis and the positions may fill.

To apply, complete the J-PAL/IPA Common Application. After completing a brief registration, choose the Research job category, then select “Research Associate - Behavioral Economics Research Lab Chennai”. Visit here and complete your online application.

Note that you are able to submit your application before your references complete their recommendation letters; however, you must include their contact information before submitting your application. Given the volume of applications received, only shortlisted candidates will be contacted for an interview.