Ms Shan Aman-Rana

Ms Shan Aman-Rana

PhD Candidate in Economics

Department of Economics

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English, French, Urdu
Key Expertise
Development Economics, Organisational Economics

About me

Job Market Placement
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Virginia

Research interests
Development Economics (primary)
Organizational Economics (secondary)

Job market paper
Meritocracy in Bureaucracy? Evidence from Pakistan  


Read the abstract and download the paper

Most bureaucracies today are rule-based. This is a result of a powerful intellectual tradition that argues that allowing discretion in decision making could lead to favoritism and collusion, with substantial costs to the organization.  This paper studies one particular public sector bureaucracy, the Pakistan Administrative Services (PAS) in Punjab and presents novel evidence that when senior bureaucrats have discretion to promote juniors they do so meritocratically. I create a newly digitized civil servant-month panel data-set (1983-2013) which combines the universe of personnel records of PAS civil servants in Punjab, Pakistan with two key measures of merit of the junior (1) recruitment exam ranking that is publicly observable (2) historical tax collection by juniors that is private information of a particular set of seniors. I exploit two rules within the government to get exogenous variation in both the set of seniors and their power to promote juniors. First, results show that, in the long run, as the promotion power of seniors increase, high merit junior bureaucrats are more likely to be promoted than low merit ones. Second, with increases in the promotion power of seniors they are more likely to pull high merit junior bureaucrats into their own team and promote them, while the effect reverses for low merit juniors. This suggests that self-interest of the person exercising discretion is one mechanism behind meritocracy.  Third, as promotion power of senior increases, those juniors who are observationally good performers but not stars according to private information of the senior, have 3 times lower probability of being promoted than those who are top performers in both dimensions. A similar effect is seen for those that are observationally poor performers. This suggests that seniors can decipher not just hidden lemons from the star performers but also hidden gems from the bottom of the performance distribution. These results suggest that there is value from allowing discretion and have wider implications for how we think about the use of subjective judgement in organizations. 

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Publications and additional papers

'Group size and use of skills diversity in production. Evidence from the lab and the field' (with Brais Álvarez Pereira (EUI); Brais Álvarez Pereira's job market paper)
Abstract: This paper presents evidence on whether group size plays a role in determining how skills diversity affects performance of workers. We develop a theoretical framework that shows that having a diverse group-member increases performance of workers in a large group more than in a small one. We test this hypothesis in a lab in Guinea-Bissau with Nursing and Economics students. We find that the nurses with an economist colleague in a large group perform 4.3 times higher than those in a small group. We provide descriptive evidence in support of this result from a novel administrative data-set of tax collectors from Pakistan.

'Charitable donations and violence: Evidence from Pakistan'
Abstract: This paper suggests a new channel of violence: the charitable donations channel. I exploit the rules of religious donations coupled with variations in the international price of gold/silver to arrive at a source of exogenous variation for donations. Using district-year level data on average household donations and terrorist attacks in Pakistan for the years 2001-2013, I find that donations increase the probability of a terrorist attack by 79% and the number of terrorist attacks by 30. All the effect of donations appears to work through an increase in suicide attacks as a specific terrorism tactic. All other tactics appear unaffected.

Research in progress: 

  • 'Incentive effects of automation in bureaucracies: Evidence from Pakistan'
  • 'Career incentives from a powerful work network: Evidence from Pakistan civil services'
  • 'Better match through discretionary job allocation in bureaucracies? Evidence from Pakistan'
  • 'Gender quota and performance of men: Evidence from Pakistan Civil Services' ​
  • 'Do fast-tracked bureaucrats perform better?​'
  • 'Can a 360 degree review incentivise performance of bureaucrats?'


Placement Officer
Professor Mark Schankerman 

Professor Oriana Bandiera
Professor Tim Besley
Professor Maitreesh Ghatak
Professor Gerard Padro I Miquel 

Professor Robin Burgess
Professor Oriana Bandiera
Professor Tim Besley
Professor Robin Burgess
Professor Maitreesh Ghatak
Professor Gerard Padro I Miquel

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Department of Economics,
London School of Economics and Political Science,
Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE