Job Opportunity for Research Associate – Direct Benefit Transfers for Electricity at Poverty Action Lab in in Vishakhapatnam

Website Poverty Action Lab

Project Title: Direct Benefit Transfers for Electricity – Andhra Pradesh

Country: India

Location: Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

Language: Telugu

Length of Commitment: 14 months

Education: Bachelor’s in Economics

Organization: J-PAL South Asia at IFMR

Company Description:

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) seeks qualified applicants for positions as Research Associates for projects on agriculture, education, environment, finance, health, labor, and governance in locations around the world. The projects study a variety of topics within the previously listed fields. The positions offer an opportunity to gain first-hand field management experience in an organization undertaking cutting-edge development research. These positions are located primarily in developing countries around the world and the principal investigators are J-PAL affiliated professors.

Project Description:

Electricity subsidies for agriculture have been meant as a lifeline to farmers, allowing the widespread use of irrigation with electric pumps to extract groundwater. Instead, they have locked rural India into a destructive cycle of groundwater depletion and bad power supply. Farmers, given electricity for free, use too much, draining groundwater and worsening poverty (Sekhri, 2014). Meanwhile, because supplying below cost loses money, electricity distribution companies have to ration rural customers to stay afloat. These discoms (distribution companies) have a collective USD 100 billion of debt, and in many states supply rural areas only eight hours per day.

The question of this study is: can a change in delivery mechanism of agricultural subsidy to the farmers make both farmers and discoms better off? J-PAL has been working as a monitoring and evaluation partner to the distribution company to evaluate the YSR Free Agricultural Power Scheme since 2020. Our study (PIs: Prof. Nicholas Ryan and Prof. Anant Sudarshan) is planning in extension of the YSR Free Agricultural Power Scheme that would pay refundable subsidies to farmers to encourage power and water conservation. This study will design, implement and evaluate a subsidy delivery innovation that aims to make farmers better off while reducing discom losses and the subsidy burden on the state government. The proposed extension would establish a subsidy entitlement, or target, based on the past consumption of an agricultural consumer in a given area. Consumers who draw less than their entitlement would then be paid at the rate of Rs. 5 for each unit saved. This refundable payment would be calculated automatically on the basis of consumption readings and transferred to the farmer’s bank account. Farmers would be able to withdraw the refunded subsidy amount, under the pilot, which is not the case for farmer-specific subsidy accounts currently envisioned. If the consumption exceeds entitlement, the power continues to be free but no rebate is transferred.

The evaluation would then ask: what is the take-up of this alternate subsidy delivery mechanism? How much does the higher marginal price induce conservation of electricity and groundwater? How does its take-up affect the distribution company’s costs and losses and the farmer’s productivity?

Research Associate Roles and Responsibilities:

The RA will work closely with academic researchers and other field staff to perform a variety tasks including, but not limited to:

  • Overseeing implementation of the evaluation in accordance to the research design, in association with our partner organization.
  • Designing survey questionnaires, conducting qualitative research, conducting quantitative analysis of real time incoming consumer billing data and refining surveying instruments.
  • Managing field teams: Recruit, train, and supervise both field-based and data operations teams consisting of project assistants, field managers, field-based surveyors, data entry operators and other field and office staff.
  • Maintaining relationships with partner organizations at both headquarters and field levels
  • Supervising data collection and data-entry, and ensuring data quality and productivity.
  • Assisting with data cleaning, preliminary data analysis, and preparation of documents and presentations for dissemination.
  • Reporting to PIs on all of the above mentioned activities.
  • Desired Qualifications and Experience:


  • A Bachelor’s degree in Economics (or related field) or Engineering
  • At least 1 year of work experience is desired but not necessary
  • Prior experience with field data collection is desired but not necessary
  • Familiarity with impact evaluations and randomized controlled trials is required
  • Excellent management and organizational skills along with strong quantitative skills
  • Fluency in Hindi, Telugu and English and strong communication skills are required.
  • Flexible, self-motivating, able to manage multiple tasks efficiently, and a team player
  • Willingness to live in Andhra Pradesh and travel extensively to study areas
  • Basic knowledge of STATA or other data analysis tool


  • Master’s degree in economics, engineering or related disciplines is preferred
  • Experience living

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