PhD, Sociology, Stanford University, USA
BA, Neuroscience and Behaviour, Barnard College, USA
Diana Dakhlallah is an Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour. She joined Desautels in 2018 after completing her PhD at Stanford University.
Research areas include economic sociology, organisational theory, political economy, healthcare markets, global health, bribery, and development.
The political economy of the market for human clinical trials (HCT) begins with testing novel therapies in human beings, moving them from laboratory bench to market. Difficult and expensive, HCTs approximate two-thirds of drug R&D costs. The dominant view of governments' role in this translational phase of drug development delimits it to regulation. In contrast, the major goal of this research project is to demonstrate, theorise and explain more active forms of government involvement in HCTs. In particular, Dakhlallah investigates when, why and how governments create new markets for HCT testing, with attention to the impact on drug development, access to therapies and healthcare delivery. This project combines large-scale data analysis with intensive case studies, covering various geographic locations.
This work falls at the intersection of the political economy of service provision in public-sector organisations, organisational theory and global health. It combines in-depth field work, survey methods, field experimental methods, and behavioural interventions to demonstrate how social incentives—i.e., social preferences (e.g., fairness, identity) and social interactions and relations (e.g., with peers, authority, beneficiaries)—structure bribe markets in consequential ways, with implications for theories of misconduct inside organisations and the kinds of policy interventions that may be effectively deployed. The lessons from this work shed light on questions related to the interpretation, measurement, scaling, social-influence dynamics, and institutionalisation of unsanctioned transactions inside organisations and at the societal level.
Some papers linked to this research:
D. Dakhlallah. Collective Reputation and Bribe Exchange: A Field Experiment. [Expand for Abstract]
(R&R) I investigate whether collective reputation threat incentivises healthcare providers to stop taking bribes. I designed and implemented a field experiment in the maternity wards of Moroccan public hospitals, where healthcare providers take bribes from patients in return for improving on the quality of care. This study gives the first direct test of the impact of collective reputational incentives on bribery reduction inside a real-world organisation. I find that bribery levels decrease in high-prevalence wards, but remain the same in low-prevalence wards. This circumscribed effectiveness is due to a tolerance threshold, defined as a prevalence level above which providers experience the reputational costs of being associated with bribery, and below which they do not. Field observational, provider-level survey and organisation-level data support this conclusion. Theoretically, this work adjudicates on two social-influence theories of misconduct inside organisations. I provide evidence in favour of the normative-pressures over the free-rider account, and suggest future research explore the full import of threshold dynamics. On a policy level, these findings indicate that collective reputation threat is an effective policy lever in harder hit environments. This is good news because it is in such settings that policy finds itself at a loss. This study gives a close-up example of the kinds of tradeoffs that policymakers should be aware of when considering the welfare effects of image-induced behaviour change.
D. Dakhlallah. The Social Dynamics of Bribery Inside Organisations. [Expand for Abstract]
(Working Paper) I focus on bribery during public services provision. The provision of public services involves three parties–the beneficiary (service seeker), the agent (service provider) and the principal (public sector organisation). I interrogate the assumptions and inferences of dominant theories used to analyse bribery. For evidence, I draw on behavioural field studies, which include ethnographies, field experiments, and micro-survey data. I analyse three core and under-addressed themes in the study of bribe exchange: the assumptions of collusive dynamics (between principals and agents, among agents, and between beneficiaries and agents), the beneficiary-agent interaction and the institutionalisation of bribery inside organisations. This paper emphasises two points: (1) the beneficiary-agent interaction is the access point for understanding the incentive space that governs bribe exchange and (2) bribery is best studied at the level of the organisation. I show how social dynamics hinder collusive behaviour and the institutionalisation of bribery inside organisations--traditionally overestimated features of bribe markets—and how they inspire measures that deliver a more textured account of bribery in a given context, improving comparative work and policy design.
Governments around the world demonstrate a strong interest in using behavioural insights as a supplement or substitute to traditional economic and punitive levers to promote public priorities. The heterogenous and circumscribed effectiveness of behavioural interventions is connected to threshold effects. Building on her recent findings, Dakhlallah is currently developing a more precise understanding of the micro mechanisms that underlie behavioural thresholds. For example, in the context of work groups, social incentives’ ability to induce corrective and constructive change in group members’ behaviour depends on the group-level prevalence of the transgression. Above a certain level, social-incentive effects are activated leading to behaviour change and below this “threshold level” they are muted. This raises a series of how, when and why questions this research addresses.
MGMT 710: Designing Social Science Research is a PhD-level course about designing social science research with a focus on design-based causal inference. In design-based causal inference, causal leverage comes primarily from research design choices rather than from ex post adjustments using parametric statistical models. Design choices refer to first-order issues such as the structure of theoretical arguments, measurement, and study design. This applies to both quantitatively and qualitatively oriented research. Topics covered include causal and descriptive inference, causal graphs, quasi and natural experiments, field experiments, and case studies. Course readings are comprised of theoretical and empirical papers which draw on research in management and the social sciences. Weekly assignments are connected to the readings (which students complete individually or in groups), students’ research papers (which they develop in stages over the course of the semester), or both. Students are given multiple opportunities to apply what they learn. Note: A foundational introductory statistics course is a strongly recommended pre-requisite.
Dakhlallah, Diana (2022). "Making the right move: How effective matching on the frontlines maintains the market for bribes" In Economies, institutions, and territories: Dissecting nexuses in a changing world, edited by Luca Storti, Giulia Urso and Neil Reid, pp. 238-265. The Dynamics of Economic Space. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003191049.