Reshmaan N. Hussam - Faculty & Research - Harvard Business School
Photo of Reshmaan N. Hussam

Reshmaan N. Hussam

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Business, Government and the International Economy

Reshmaan Hussam is an assistant professor of business administration in the Business, Government and International Economy Unit, teaching the Business, Government and International Economy course to MBA students. Her research explores questions at the intersection of development, behavioral, and health economics.  Considering the puzzle of the ubiquitously low adoption of many low cost, high return goods, behaviors, and technologies in the developing world, she explores the role of learning and habit formation in sustained behavioral change. She also examines how to utilize community information to optimally allocate capital to microentrepreneurs as well as how digitization of financial services impacts financial inclusion in resource-poor settings.

Prior to joining HBS, Professor Hussam was a postdoctoral fellow at the Economic Growth Center at Yale University. She received her SB and PhD in economics from MIT.

Journal Articles
  1. 'Thar' She Blows: Can Bubbles Be Rekindled with Experienced Subjects?

    Reshmaan Hussam, David Porter and Vernon Smith

    We report 28 new experiment sessions consisting of up to three experience levels to examine the robustness of learning and “error” elimination among participants in a laboratory asset market and its effect on price bubbles. Our answer to the title question is: “yes.” We impose a large increase in liquidity and dividend uncertainty to shock the environment of experienced subjects who have converged to equilibrium, and this treatment rekindles a bubble. However, in replications of that same challenging environment across three experience levels, we discover that the environment yields a rare residual tendency to bubble even in the third experience session. Therefore, a caveat must be placed on the effect of twice-experienced subjects in asset markets: in order for price bubbles to be extinguished, the environment in which the participants engage in exchange must be stationary and bounded by a range of parameters. Experience, including possible “error” elimination, is not robust to major new environment changes in determining the characteristics of a price bubble.

    Keywords: experimental economics; asset markets; bubbles; Price Bubble; Financial Markets;


    Hussam, Reshmaan, David Porter, and Vernon Smith. "'Thar' She Blows: Can Bubbles Be Rekindled with Experienced Subjects?" American Economic Review 98, no. 3 (June 2008): 924–937.  View Details
  2. The Impact of Training Informal Healthcare Providers in India: A Randomized Controlled Trial

    Jishnu Das, Abhijit Chowdhury, Reshmaan Hussam and Abhijit Banerjee

    Health care providers without formal medical qualifications provide more than 70% of all primary care in rural India. Training these informal providers may be one way to improve the quality of care where few alternatives exist. We report on a randomized controlled trial assessing a program that provided 72 sessions of training over 9 months to 152 informal providers (out of 304). Using standardized patients (“mystery clients”), we assessed clinical practice for three different conditions to which both providers and trainers were blinded during the intervention, representative of the range of conditions that these providers normally diagnose and treat. Training increased correct case management by 7.9 percentage points (14.2%) but did not affect the use of unnecessary medicines and antibiotics. At a program cost of $175 per trainee, our results suggest that multitopic medical training offers an effective short-run strategy to improve health care.

    Keywords: health care; india; business training; RCT; Health Care and Treatment; Training; Performance Evaluation; Performance Improvement; India;


    Das, Jishnu, Abhijit Chowdhury, Reshmaan Hussam, and Abhijit Banerjee. "The Impact of Training Informal Healthcare Providers in India: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Science 354, no. 6308 (October 7, 2016): 80–91.  View Details
Working Papers
  1. Habit Formation and Rational Addiction: A Field Experiment in Handwashing

    Reshmaan Hussam, Atonu Rabbani, Giovanni Reggiani and Natalia Rigol

    Regular handwashing with soap is believed to have substantial impacts on child health in the developing world. Most handwashing campaigns have failed, however, to establish and maintain a regular practice of handwashing. Motivated by scholarship that suggests handwashing is habitual, we design, implement, and analyze a randomized field experiment aimed to test the main predictions of the rational addiction model. To reliably measure handwashing, we develop and produce a novel soap dispenser, within which a time-stamped sensor is embedded. We randomize distribution of these soap dispensers as well as provision of monitoring (feedback reports) or monitoring and incentives for daily handwashing. Relative to a control arm in which households receive no dispenser, we find that all treatments generate substantial improvements in child health as measured by child weight and height. Our key test of rational addiction is implemented by informing a subset of households about a future boost in monitoring or incentives. We find that (1) both monitoring and incentives increase handwashing relative to receiving only a dispenser, (2) these effects persist after monitoring or incentives are removed, and (3) the anticipation of monitoring increases handwashing rates significantly, implying that individuals internalize the habitual nature of handwashing and accumulate habit stock accordingly. Our results are consistent with the key predictions of the rational addiction model, expanding its relevance to settings beyond what are usually considered “addictive” behaviors.

    Keywords: Behavior; Motivation and Incentives; Health;


    Hussam, Reshmaan, Atonu Rabbani, Giovanni Reggiani, and Natalia Rigol. "Habit Formation and Rational Addiction: A Field Experiment in Handwashing." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 18-030, September 2017.  View Details
  2. Marry Rich, Poor Girl: Investigating the Effects of Sex Selection on Intrahousehold Outcomes in India

    Reshmaan Hussam

    Sex ratios at birth have risen steadily over the last three decades across much of the developing world. Many attribute this rise to improved access to sex selection technologies such as ultrasound since 1980. This study seeks to understand the effect of access to sex selection technologies such as ultrasound, and consequently skewed sex ratios, on the marriage market and intrahousehold outcomes of females in India. Existing economic theory and literature view male-skewed populations as a boon to the marital prospects of females. However, Edlund (1999) proposes an (as yet untested) theory that, in environments where hypergamy is practiced and parents derive utility from married children, a male-skewed sex ratio can generate a permanent female underclass. I extend this theory to argue that if sex ratios are skewed disproportionately amongst the rich, as the evidence suggests, then poorer matching in the marriage market will in turn lead to weaker bargaining positions for females. I test this theory and examine its implications for later life outcomes using India-wide household level data on ultrasound use and bargaining power. I present evidence that village-level ultrasound is an exogenous source of variation for access to sex selection technology, demonstrate that parents are indeed considering the sex ratio of their unborn child’s future marriage market when determining the sex composition of their own family, and utilize a difference-in-difference approach to identify the effect of ultrasound access on intrahousehold outcomes of affected women. I find evidence that greater parental access to sex selection technology at a child’s birth is related to poorer outcomes in her marriage: greater marriage age gaps, increased marital abuse, lower reported autonomy, and poorer health. My results are robust to a TS2SLS specification employing distance to a major health center as my instrument. As the first cohort of females affected by ultrasound at birth have only recently entered the marriage market, this study provides timely and compelling empirical evidence of the unintended consequences on later life outcomes of sex selection in India.

    Keywords: Gender; Technology; Household; Outcome or Result; India;


    Hussam, Reshmaan. "Marry Rich, Poor Girl: Investigating the Effects of Sex Selection on Intrahousehold Outcomes in India." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 18-029, September 2017.  View Details
  3. Throwing the Baby out with the Drinking Water: Unintended Consequences of Arsenic Mitigation Efforts in Bangladesh

    Reshmaan Hussam, Erica Field and Rachel Glennerster

    The 1994 discovery of arsenic in ground water in Bangladesh prompted a massive public health effort to test all tubewells in the country and convince nearly one-quarter of the population to switch to arsenic-free drinking water sources. According to numerous sources, the campaign was effective in leading the majority of households at risk of arsenic poisoning to abandon backyard wells in favor of more remote tubewells or surface water sources, a switch widely believed to have saved numerous lives. We investigate the possibility of unintended health consequences of the wide-scale abandonment of shallow tubewells due to higher exposure to fecal-oral pathogens in water from arsenic-free sources. Significant small-scale variability of arsenic concentrations in ground water allows us to compare trends in infant and child mortality between otherwise similar households in the same village who did and did not have an incentive to abandon shallow tubewells. While child mortality rates were similar among households with arsenic-contaminated and arsenic-free wells prior to public knowledge of the arsenic problem, post-2000 households living on arsenic-contaminated land have 27% higher rates of infant and child mortality than those not encouraged to switch sources, implying that the campaign doubled mortality from diarrheal disease. These findings provide novel evidence of a strong association between drinking water contamination and child mortality, a question of current scientific debate in settings with high levels of exposure to microbial pathogens through other channels.

    Keywords: child mortality; Bangladesh; Arsenic; Unintended Consequences; Health Disorders; Safety; Outcome or Result; Bangladesh;


    Hussam, Reshmaan, Erica Field, and Rachel Glennerster. "Throwing the Baby out with the Drinking Water: Unintended Consequences of Arsenic Mitigation Efforts in Bangladesh." Working Paper, February 2011.  View Details