(joint with Hope Thompson)
Electrification is considered important for development. And, indeed, recent papers have documented the benefits of electrification on a variety of outcomes, such as labor force participation (Dinkelman, 2011), economic development (Lipscomb, Mobarak, and Barham, 2013), agricultural productivity and land use (Assunção et al. 2016), and health (Barron and Torero, 2016). Yet, one in five people throughout the world continue to lack access to electricity (UNDP, 2015). Smaller-scale renewable energy technologies have been promoted as an off-grid (or mini-grid) path to increasing access to electricity in developing countries, particularly amongst the rural poor. Advocates claim that these renewable energy technologies can permit users to “leapfrog”, whereas others believe that true electrification must come via the grid. Although the two sources provide a different set of services, existing studies focus on estimating the impacts of grid-electrification. There is little existing evidence on the impacts of off-grid electrification in developing countries. And, to our knowledge, there are no comparisons of the benefits from grid versus off-grid electrification. Through two natural experiments in Nepal, we provide evidence on the impacts of grid and off-grid electrification on household time use and labor market outcomes.