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.
The 73rd Amendment paved the way for a fundamental change in the way public goods are delivered in rural areas in India. Through the structure of the Panchayati Raj, local councils directly elected by the people are responsible for making decisions on an array of public good decisions. Twice a year, the councils must also convene village meetings (Gram Sabhas), where the villagers must approve their plan and their budget. Eventually, the Gram Panchayats are supposed to be given control over an even broader array of social services, including basic education and primary health care. The hope is that decentralization, by bringing decision-making closer to the people, may improve both the quality of social services delivery in India, which is in many ways disastrous (e.g., Probe Team (1999)), and its adequacy to meet people’s needs.
Kenya’s education system blends substantial centralization with elements of local control and school choice. This paper argues that the system creates incentives for local communities to build too many small schools; to spend too much on teachers relative to non-teacher inputs; and to set school fees that exceed those preferred by the median voter and prevent many children from attending school. Moreover, the system renders the incentive effects of school choice counterproductive by undermining the tendency for pupils to switch into the schools with the best headmasters. A randomized evaluation of a program operated by a non-profit organization suggests that budget-neutral reductions in the cost of attending school and increases in non-teacher inputs, financed by increases in class size, would greatly reduce dropout rates without reducing test scores. Moreover, evidence based on transfers into and out of program schools suggests that the population would prefer such a reallocation of expenditures.