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Welcome! I am an Assistant Professor in the Economics Division at Columbia Business School.

My research primarily focuses on working conditions, labor rights, and firm productivity in developing countries. I am especially interested in how the intersection of global supply chains with local institutions affect firms’ and workers’ outcomes and how labor market institutions affect economic development.

Curriculum Vitae (Link)

E-mail: l.boudreau@columbia.edu

Working Papers

Multinational enforcement of labor law: Experimental evidence from Bangladesh’s apparel sector (Revise and resubmit, Econometrica)

Supplementary Materials
Media coverage: Review by ProMarketVoxDev Talks Interview (Podcast); The Daily Star (Bangladesh)
Policy briefs: International Growth Centre Blog Post; Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business Research Brief; J-PAL Summary

Western stakeholders are increasingly demanding that multinationals sourcing from developing countries be accountable for labor rights and working conditions upstream in their supply chains. In response, many multinationals privately enforce labor standards in these countries, but the effects of their interventions on local firms and workers are unknown. I partnered with a set of multinational retail and apparel firms to enforce local labor laws on their suppliers in Bangladesh. I implemented a randomized controlled trial with 84 Bangladeshi garment factories, randomly enforcing a mandate for worker-manager safety committees in 41 supplier establishments. The intervention significantly improves compliance with the labor law. It also has a positive effect on indicators of factory safety, including measures of physical safety and awareness. These improvements do not appear to come at significant costs to suppliers in terms of efficiency. Factories with better managerial practices drive these improvements. In contrast, factories with poor managerial practices do not improve compliance or safety, and in these factories, workers’ job satisfaction declines.

Union Leaders: Experimental Evidence from Myanmar (with Rocco Macchiavello, Virginia Minni, and Mari Tanaka)

Economic theory suggests that leaders may play a key roles in enabling social movements to overcome collective action problems through a variety of distinct mechanisms. Empirical tests of these theories outside the lab are scarce due to both measurement and identification challenges. We conduct multiple field experiments to test theories of leadership in the context of Myanmar’s burgeoning labor union movement. We collaborate with a confederation of labor unions as it mobilizes garment workers in the run-up to a national minimum wage negotiation. We present three sets of results. First, we document that union leaders differ from union members and non-members along several traits that psychologists and organizational sociologists have associated with ability to influence collective outcomes. Second, we randomly embed leaders in group discussions on workers’ preferred and expected minimum wage levels. A leader’s presence in the group improves group engagement and increases workers’ consensus around the unions’ preferred minimum wage levels. Third, we conduct a mobilization experiment in which workers are invited to participate in an unannounced activity that features strategic complementarity in turnout. Leaders influence participation through both coordination and social pressure mechanisms rather than by simply motivating workers.

Migrants, information, and working conditions in Bangladeshi Garment Factories  – with Rachel Heath and Tyler McCormick

Many workers in large factories in developing countries are internal migrants from rural areas. We develop a model in which migrants are poorly informed about working conditions upon beginning work but learn more as they gain experience in the industry. We then examine the relationship between workers’ migration status and the working conditions they face in a household survey of garment workers in Bangladesh. Consistent with the model, migrants are in firms with higher wages but worse working conditions, but as their careers progress, they have higher mobility than locals as they move towards firms with better conditions.

Work in Progress

Survey Design for Sensitive Information in Organizations (with Sylvain Chassang, Ada González-Torres, and Rachel Heath)

Whistleblowing Mechanisms for Employer Misbehavior: Evidence from the Bangladeshi Garments Sector (with Sylvain Chassang and Ada González-Torres)

Social Norms and Firm Productivity: Evidence from Bangladeshi Knitwear Factories (with Sakib Mahmood and Oren Reshef)

The Roles of Information and Search Frictions in Determining Working Conditions in Bangladesh’s Apparel Sector (with Narayan Das and Rachel Heath)