Research

Working Papers:

 Efficacy of “Town Hall” Meetings in Electoral Democracy: Theory and Evidence from Indian Village Councils

 [Ideas for India article]

Abstract: This paper determines the relevance of institutionalized meetings in (local) electoral democracies. It proposes a model where meeting has enforcement power, and election result influences meeting outcome through policymaker’s ability to control meeting procedure. Predictions about equilibrium meeting attendance patterns are then tested in the context of local meetings in Indian villages. Empirical analysis exploits exogenous reservation of village-chair elections for women. I find that meeting attendance rates of both genders respond to village-chair’s gender identity and group sizes as predicted by model, ruling out other mechanisms. Also, relative attendance of women positively affects the “gender composition” of public good provision.

Credit Groups, Women’s Political Engagement and Public Goods Provision (joint work with Pushkar Maitra (Monash University) and Paromita Sanyal (Florida State University))

Abstract: We examine whether membership in Self-Help Groups (SHGs), the predominant type of micro- credit group in India, affects women’s political engagement via attendance in village assemblies, participation in political party activities, and membership in village level political committees. We also examine the influence of women’s village assembly attendance on public goods provision by the village council. Using pan-Indian survey data and an IV approach, we find that SHG membership increases women’s attendance in village assemblies. This improves the gender composition of village assemblies in women’s favor, which in turn changes the composition of public goods provided by village councils towards more women-preferred ones. Membership of microcredit groups also leads to increased long term political engagement of women. Microcredit groups, therefore, contribute to “democratic deepening” by indirectly promoting the participation of women in political institutions and processes.

Whom are you doing a favor to? Political Alignment and Allocation of Public Servants (with Gaurav Sabharwal (Princeton University))

 Abstract: We critically examine the claim that political alignment, defined as the same party in power across different levels of government (state and local districts), is beneficial for the local area – a finding that the literature broadly agrees on. We argue that such welfare gains to aligned units is, at least partly, undone when one considers rent-seeking motives of local politicians. We examine the issue in a dynamic model of police assignment where the state assigns police to control rent-seeking activities of local politicians and the local politicians choose rent-seeking efforts to maximize lifetime payoffs. The model predicts that aligned districts are assigned lower quality police officers more often and aggregate rent-seeking is higher in aligned districts. We compile a unique panel dataset for the Indian state of Rajasthan to test the model’s predictions; the dataset contains the complete career histories of police officers and administrative bureaucrats, and information on crime statistics. Consistent with the theory, we find that in aligned districts, “worse” police officers are allocated for longer duration, “better” ones are transferred out more frequently and, as a consequence, the crime situation is worse in aligned districts. This paper, therefore, emphasizes the need to look at a broader set of measures in determining the consequences of political alignment.

Efficiency Consequences of Affirmative Action in Politics: Evidence from India (with Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay (ISI, Delhi) and Rajas Saroy (ISI, Delhi))

Abstract: We examine how overall delivery of public goods (i.e., efficiency) is affected by affirmative action in elections, i.e., restricting candidate entry in elections to one population group. We argue that when group identities are salient, such restrictions on candidate entry need not necessarily reduce electoral competition. In fact, when group sizes are asymmetric, affirmative action may increase electoral competition and consequently, improve provision of public goods. This happens because in an open election, the (best) candidate from the large group facing a minority candidate suffers from a moral hazard problem. Affirmative action eliminates this problem and increases within-group competition. We study a randomized caste based quota policy in village elections in a large state in India to test these claims. Consistently, we find that electoral quotas for a caste group (OBCs) increased provision of public goods in villages with high OBC population shares. We show that this did not happen due to changes in politicians’ preferences or quality, and the increased provision of public goods did not disproportionately benefit the OBCs. Further, using election data, we show evidence in favor of our mechanism: win margins are narrower in quota elections relative to open elections in villages where OBC group is large. Our results highlight that efficiency concerns regarding affirmative action in politics may need reevaluation.

 

Work in Progress:

Effect of Storage Capacity on Price Dynamics and Production: Evidence from India (with Gaurav Chiplunkar (Yale University) and Shivakumar Venkatraman (Yale University))

Does Incentivized Capacity Building Affect Institutional Performance? Evidence from Village Councils in India (with Souvik Dutta (IIM, Bangalore) and Abhirup Sarkar (ISI, Kolkata))

 Strategic Abstention and Candidate Quality in Repeated Elections (with Johann Caro Burnett (Hiroshima University))

 Reelection Incentive and Public Good Provision: Evidence from India (with Craig Palsson (Yale University))

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