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The Efficacy of Parochial Politics: Caste, Commitment, and Competence in Indian Local Governments

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  • Kaivan Munshi
  • Mark Rosenzweig

Abstract

Parochial politics is typically associated with poor leadership and low levels of public good provision. This paper explores the possibility that community involvement in politics need not necessarily worsen governance and, indeed, can be efficiency-enhancing when the context is appropriate. Complementing the new literature on the role of community networks in solving market problems, we test the hypothesis that strong traditional social institutions can discipline the leaders they put forward, successfully substituting for secular political institutions when they are ineffective. Using new data on Indian local governments at the ward level over multiple terms, and exploiting the randomized election reservation system, we find that the presence of a numerically dominant sub-caste (caste equilibrium) is associated with the selection of leaders with superior observed characteristics and with greater public good provision. This improvement in leadership competence occurs without apparently diminishing leaders' responsiveness to their constituency.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14335.

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Date of creation: Sep 2008
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14335

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  1. John A., List & Daniel, Sturm, 2006. "How Elections Matter: Theory and Evidence from Environmental Policy," Discussion Papers in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics 768, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
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  15. Pranab Bardhan & Dilip Mookherjee & Monica Parra Torrado, 2006. "Impact of Reservations of Panchayat Pradhans on Targeting in West Bengal," Working Papers id:774, eSocialSciences.
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  18. Petia Topalova & Esther Duflo & Rohini Pande & Lori Beaman & Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, 2008. "Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?," Working Papers id:1617, eSocialSciences.
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Cited by:
  1. Raghbendra Jha & Hari K. Nagarajan & Kailash C. Pradhan, 2011. "Aligning With One's Own: Private Voting and Public Outcomes in Elections in Rural India," ASARC Working Papers, The Australian National University, Australia South Asia Research Centre 2011-09, The Australian National University, Australia South Asia Research Centre.
  2. Frederico Finan & Claudio Ferraz, 2009. "Motivating Politicians: The Impacts of Monetary Incentives on Quality and Performance," Working Papers id:1889, eSocialSciences.
  3. Beaman, Lori & Chattopadhyay, Raghebendra & Duflo, Esther & Pande, Rohini & Topalova, Petia, 2008. "Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?," Working Paper Series, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government rwp08-037, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  4. Sarah Baird & Craig McIntosh & Berk Özler, 2011. "The Regressive Demands of Demand-Driven Development," Working Papers, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy 2011-21, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
  5. Kaivan Munshi & Mark Rosenzweig, 2013. "Networks, Commitment, and Competence: Caste in Indian Local Politics," NBER Working Papers 19197, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Palaniswamy, Nethra, 2010. "Sarpanch raj: is the President all powerful?," IFPRI discussion papers, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 972, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

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