CDDRL post-doctoral fellow Bilal Siddiqi will address the question of whether progressive, statutory legal reform can meaningfully affect the lives of the poor, using observational and experimental evidence from Liberia in a new study co-authored with Justin Sandefur at the Center for Global Development. The authors develop a simple model of forum choice and test it using new survey data on over 4,500 legal disputes taken to a range of customary and formal legal institutions in rural Liberia. Their results suggest that the poor would beneﬁt most from access to low-cost, remedial justice that incorporates the progressive features of the formal law. They then present the results of a randomized controlled trial of a legal empowerment intervention in Liberia providing pro bono mediation and advocacy services, using community paralegals trained in the formal law. The authors find strong and robust impacts on justice outcomes, as well as signiﬁcant downstream welfare beneﬁts—including increases in household and child food security of 0.24 and 0.38 standard deviations, respectively. They interpret these results as preliminary evidence that there are large socioeconomic gains to be had from improving access to justice, not by bringing the rural poor into the formal domain of magistrates’ courts, government oﬃces, and police stations, but by bringing the formal law into the organizational forms of the custom through third-party mediation and advocacy.
About the Speaker:
Bilal Siddiqi is a postdoctoral scholar affiliated with the Empirical Studies of Conflict project (esoc.princeton.edu). His research focuses on micro-institutions, formal and informal legal systems, peace-building and state accountability in post-conflict settings. He is currently involved in several field experiments in Sierra Leone and Liberia, including a randomized controlled trial of two non-financial incentive mechanisms in Sierra Leone’s public health sector; experimental evaluations of community-based paralegal programs in Liberia and Sierra Leone; and a randomized controlled trial of a community reconciliation program in Sierra Leone.
Bilal received his Ph.D. and M.Phil. in economics from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. Prior to Stanford, he was based at the Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES) at Stockholm as a Marie Curie / AMID Scholar; and has also spent time at the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC, where he worked on aid effectiveness in global health. He holds a B.Sc. (Hons) from the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan.