This article presents an experiment in which 49 Indonesian villages were randomly assigned to choose development projects through either representative-based meetings or direct election-based plebiscites. Plebiscites resulted in dramatically higher satisfaction among villagers, increased knowledge about the project, greater perceived bene?ts, and higher reported willingness to contribute. Changing the political mechanism had much smaller effects on the actual projects selected, with some evidence that plebiscites resulted in projects chosen by women being located in poorer areas. The results suggest that direct participation in political decision making can substantially increase satisfaction and legitimacy.
We conducted a field experiment to measure the effect of exposure to newspapers on political behavior and opinion. Before the 2005 Virginia gubernatorial election, we randomly assigned individuals to a Washington Post free subscription treatment, a Washington Times free subscription treatment, or a control treatment. We find no effect of either paper on political knowledge, stated opinions, or turnout in post-election survey and voter data. However, receiving either paper led to more support for the Democratic candidate, suggesting that media slant mattered less in this case than media exposure. Some evidence from voting records also suggests that receiving either paper led to increased 2006 voter turnout.
This paper studies the economic and health impacts of the 2007 Kenyan Presidential Election crisis. Over the two months of civil conflict that immediately followed the election, we observe sizeable downfalls in income, expenditure, and consumption for a broad segment of the rural population. This suggests households were unable to smooth over the shock. We also find that the crisis increased the likelihood that women who supply transactional sex chose to engage in unprotected sex, increasing the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission. These results suggest that social unrest is an important channel through which political instability can affect long-term outcomes and development.
This paper presents a randomized field experiment on community-based monitoring of public primary health care providers in Uganda. Through two rounds of village meetings, localized nongovernmental organizations encouraged communities to be more involved with the state of health service provision and strengthened their capacity to hold their local health providers to account for performance. A year after the intervention, treatment communities are more involved in monitoring the provider, and the health workers appear to exert higher effort to serve the community. We document large increases in utilization and improved health outcomes—reduced child mortality and increased child weight—that compare favorably to some of the more successful community-based intervention trials reported in the medical literature
This paper examines the accuracy of corruption perceptions by comparing Indonesian villagers reported perceptions about corruption in a road-building project in their village with a more objective measure of 'missing expenditures' in the project. I find that villagers' reported perceptions do contain real information, and that villagers are sophisticated enough to distinguish between corruption in a particular road project and general corruption in the village. The magnitude of the reported information, however, is small, in part because officials hide corruption where it is hardest for villagers to detect. I also find that there are biases in reported perceptions. The findings illustrate the limitations of relying solely on corruption perceptions, whether in designing anti-corruption policies or in conducting empirical research on corruption.
This paper reports the results of a field experiment testing the effectiveness of different quality get-out-the-vote (GOTV) non-partisan phone calls. During the week preceding the November 2004 election, we randomly assigned registered voters in North Carolina and Missouri to one of three live phone calls with varying length and content. The scripts are (1) standard GOTV, (2) interactive GOTV, and (3) interactive GOTV with a request for mobilizing neighbors. We find that people assigned to the interactive GOTV treatment are more likely to turn out, while the effect of the “get your neighbors to vote” script is relatively as weak as that of the standard script. The findings suggest that interactive phone calls generally tend to increase voter turnout, but in order for a phone call to be effective, the message needs to be focused. The borderline statistical significance of the script that encourages neighbors’ participation invites replication of this experiment.
What is the political legacy of violent conflict? I present evidence for a link from past violence to increased political engagement among ex-combatants. The evidence comes from northern Uganda, where rebel recruitment generated quasi-experimental variation in who was conscripted by abduction. Survey data suggest that abduction leads to substantial increases in voting and community leadership, largely due to elevated levels of violence witnessed. Meanwhile, abduction and violence do not appear to affect non-political participation. These patterns are not easily explained by conventional theories of participation, including mobilization by elites, differential costs, and altruistic preferences. Qualitative interviews suggest that violence may lead to personal growth and political activation, a possibility supported by psychological research on the positive effects of traumatic events. While the generalizability of these results requires more evidence to judge, the findings challenge our understanding of political behavior and point to important new avenues of research.
We exploit random assignment of gender quotas across Indian village councils to investigate whether having a female chief councillor affects public opinion towards female leaders. Villagers who have never been required to have a female leader prefer male leaders and perceive hypothetical female leaders as less effective than their male counterparts, when stated performance is identical. Exposure to a female leader does not alter villagers' taste preference for male leaders. However, it weakens stereotypes about gender roles in the public and domestic spheres and eliminates the negative bias in how female leaders' effectiveness is perceived among male villagers. Female villagers exhibit less prior bias, but are also less likely to know about or participate in local politics; as a result, their attitudes are largely unaffected. Consistent with our experimental findings, villagers rate their women leaders as less effective when exposed to them for the first, but not second, time. These changes in attitude are electorally meaningful: after 10 years of the quota policy, women are more likely to stand for and win free seats in villages that have been continuously required to have a female chief councillor.
This paper presents a randomized field experiment on reducing corruptionin over 600 Indonesian village road projects. I find that increasinggovernment audits from 4 percent of projects to 100 percentreduced missing expenditures, as measured by discrepancies betweenofficial project costs and an independent engineers' estimate of costs,by eight percentage points. By contrast, increasing grassroots participationin monitoring had little average impact, reducing missing expendituresonly in situations with limited free-rider problems andlimited elite capture. Overall, the results suggest that traditional topdownmonitoring can play an important role in reducing corruption,even in a highly corrupt environment.
Youth are simultaneously the primary victims and the primary actors in the two-decade long war in northern Uganda. Yet, while we know that youth have suffered (and continue to do so), we have not been able to answer with confidence or precision some crucial questions, namely: who is suffering, how much, and in what ways? Moreover, while we know that youth have made up the bulk of the armed rebel group, almost always forcibly, we have little sense of the magnitude, incidence, and nature of the violence and trauma.
This paper studies the impact of reservation for women on the performance of policy makers and on voters’ perceptions of this performance. Since the mid 1990’s, one third of Village Council head positions in India have been randomly reserved for a woman: In these councils only women could be elected to the position of chief. Village Councils are responsible for the provision of many local public goods in rural areas. Using a data set which combines individual level data on satisfaction with public services with independent assessments of the quality of public facilities, we compare objective measures of the quantity and quality of public goods, and information about how villagers evaluate the performance of male and female leaders. Overall, villages reserved for women leaders have more public goods, and the measured quality of these goods is at least as high as in non-reserved villages. Moreover, villagers are less likely to pay bribes in villages reserved for women. Yet, residents of villages headed by women are less satisfied with the public goods, including goods that are beyond the jurisdiction of the Panchayat. This may help explain why women rarely win elections even though they appear to be at least as effective leaders along observable dimensions, and are less corrupt.
This paper uses political reservations for women in India to study the impact of women’s leadership on policy decisions. Since the mid-1990’s, one third of Village Council head positions in India have been randomly reserved for a woman: In these councils only women could be elected to the position of head. Village Councils are responsible for the provision of many local public goods in rural areas. Using a dataset we collected on 265 Village Councils in West Bengal and Rajasthan, we compare the type of public goods provided in reserved and unreserved Village Councils. We show that the reservation of a council seat affects the types of public goods provided. Specifically, leaders invest more in infrastructure that is directly relevant to the needs of their own genders
Many countries are amending their political systems to set aside positions to groups, such as women and racial or religious minorities, that are perceived as being disadvantaged. Using evidence from India, this article assesses the case for these reservations.
We study race in the labor market by sending fictitious resumes to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers. To manipulate perceived race, resumes are randomly assigned African American or White sounding names. White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews. Callbacks are also more responsive to resume quality for White names than for African American ones. The racial gap is uniform across occupation, industry, and employer size. We also find little evidence that employers are inferring social class from the names. Differential treatment by race still appears to still be prominent in the U.S. labor market.
Many argue that organizations of the disadvantaged create positive externalities, and in particular strengthen the position of these groups in society. A natural inference is that these organizations should be subsidized. We argue that the benefits of expanding the operations of these groups must be set against the potential costs of weakening the role of the disadvantaged in these organizations. A prospective, randomized evaluation of a development program targeted at strengthening rural women’s groups in western Kenya suggests that the program did not improve group strength or functioning as measured by participation rates, assistance to members, and assistance to other community projects. The funding did, however, change the very characteristics of the groups that made them attractive to funders in the first place. Younger, more educated women and women employed in the formal sector joined the groups, and men and better-educated and wealthier women moved into key leadership positions.