Working Papers

Shelby Grossman, Jonathan Phillips, and Leah Rosenzweig. “Immunized Against the State: Non-Compliance with Polio Vaccination in Northern Nigeria


A poster used to coordinate resistance to vaccination in Kano, Nigeria. The poster states: “People of the area of Dakata, Dawaki, Zango, yadakunya (Bela), and their villages. We will never again accept the Polio vaccinations. Because we are angry due to the lack of roads. Lack of roads has caused the following: 1) There is no drainage for the rain, 2) Rain is destroying our houses, 3) Lack of roads for our vehicles, which prevents us from going to the hospital and causes us difficulties in going to work, the farm, school, and other places. Because of these reasons, we are convinced that the government does not care about the conditions that we are in, they are only interested in Polio. Well! We will never again accept the Polio vaccinations.”

Much scholarship conceptualizes the decision to comply with government policies as an individual cost-benefit decision influenced by attitudes to the policy and the probability-weighted cost of being caught and punished for non-compliance. The decision to comply, however, need not be bounded by the terms of the policy alone and can be influenced by broader state-society relations. In this article we introduce the concept of opportunistic non-compliance, where citizens withhold compliance with a policy to demonstrate bargaining power against the government and demand services unrelated to the policy. We hypothesize that opportunistic non-compliance is most likely where there is stark divergence between citizen and state preferences. With village-level monitoring data and case studies from the polio vaccination campaign in Northern Nigeria we find support for this hypothesis. These results suggest that intense government interventions requiring voluntary compliance can empower citizens and generate embryonic channels of accountability between the state and citizens.

Shelby Grossman and Dan Honig. “These Are My People:  Ethnic and Class-based Discrimination in Lagos” pdf, online appendix (under review)

There has been little empirical study of how ethnicity and class interact in shaping economic outcomes. We conduct an audit experiment in Lagos – one of the first audit experiments in Africa – seeking to address this gap. We find no evidence that, all else equal, sharing an ethnicity on its own shapes treatment.  However, sharing an ethnicity does benefit higher-class coethnics, giving them immunity from penalties that otherwise apply to higher-class buyers. The pattern of discrimination is tentatively suggestive of taste-based motivations.

Nathaniel Leff, Jeffry Frieden, and Shelby Grossman. “Trust and Envy: The Political Economy of Business Groups in Developing Countries.pdf

Diversified business groups play a major role in the economies of many developing countries. Business group members, often from the same communal, ethnic, or tribal group, have or develop inter-personal relations that make it easier to obtain information and monitor compliance related to transactions that require a strong measure of trust. This in-group cohesion facilitates profitable and productive economic activity. However, it can create resentment among other members of society who are barred from membership in a group that is, of necessity, exclusive. This envy can fuel a self-reinforcing cycle of societal hostility and group protectiveness that can deprive society of the economic benefits the groups can provide. There are several possible reactions such as ‘affirmative action’ programs that can slow or stop the cycle of envy and group vulnerability.