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Institutional Corruption and Election Fraud: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan


  • Michael Callen
  • James D. Long


We investigate the relationship between political networks, weak institutions, and election fraud during the 2010 parliamentary election in Afghanistan combining: (i) data on political connections between candidates and election officials; (ii) a nationwide controlled evaluation of a novel monitoring technology; and (iii) direct measurements of aggregation fraud. We find considerable evidence of aggregation fraud in favor of connected candidates and that the announcement of a new monitoring technology reduced theft of election materials by about 60 percent and vote counts for connected candidates by about 25 percent. The results have implications for electoral competition and are potentially actionable for policymakers. (JEL C93, D02, D72, K42, O17)

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Callen & James D. Long, 2015. "Institutional Corruption and Election Fraud: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(1), pages 354-381, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:105:y:2015:i:1:p:354-81
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20120427

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    Cited by:

    1. Berman, Eli & Callen, Michael & Gibson, Clark C. & Long, James D. & Rezaee, Arman, 2019. "Election fairness and government legitimacy in Afghanistan," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 292-317.
    2. Berman, Eli & Callen, Mike & Gibson, Clark C. & Long, James D. & Rezaee, Arman, 2019. "Election fairness and government legitimacy in Afghanistan," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 102986, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Frederico Finan & Benjamin A. Olken & Rohini Pande, 2015. "The Personnel Economics of the State," NBER Working Papers 21825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Casas, Agustín & Díaz, Guillermo & Trindade, André, 2017. "Who monitors the monitor? Effect of party observers on electoral outcomes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 136-149.
    5. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2014. "Under the Thumb of History? Political Institutions and the Scope for Action," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 951-971, August.
    6. Nikolaos Artavanis & Adair Morse & Margarita Tsoutsoura, 2015. "Tax Evasion across Industries: Soft Credit Evidence from Greece," NBER Working Papers 21552, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Koenig, Christoph, 2019. "Patronage and Election Fraud: Insights from Russia’s Governors 2000–2012," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 433, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    8. Curti, Filippo & Mihov, Atanas, 2018. "Fraud recovery and the quality of country governance," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 446-461.
    9. Luke Condra & Mohammad Isaqzadeh & Sera Linardi, 2016. "Imagined vs. Actual "Others": An Experiment on Interethnic Giving Afghanistan," Framed Field Experiments 00546, The Field Experiments Website.
    10. Benjamin Crost & Joseph H. Felter & Hani Mansour & Daniel I. Rees, 2013. "Election Fraud and Post-Election Conflict: Evidence from the Philippines," HiCN Working Papers 158, Households in Conflict Network.
    11. Callen, Michael & Gulzar, Saad & Hasanain, Ali & Khan, Muhammad Yasir & Rezaee, Arman, 2020. "Data and policy decisions: Experimental evidence from Pakistan," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C).
    12. Ozili, Peterson K, 2019. "Bank loan loss provisioning during election years in Nigeria," MPRA Paper 96704, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Ozili, Peterson K, 2020. "Bank loan loss provisioning during election years: cross-country evidence," MPRA Paper 96639, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Fałkowski, Jan & Kurek, Przemysław J., 2021. "The power of social mobilisation: The impact of monitoring the 2015 presidential elections in Poland," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 38-58.
    15. Callen, Michael & Long, James D., 2015. "Institutional corruption and election fraud: evidence from a field experiment in Afghanistan," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 102931, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    16. Zhang, Yue-Jun & Jin, Yan-Lin & Chevallier, Julien & Shen, Bo, 2016. "The effect of corruption on carbon dioxide emissions in APEC countries: A panel quantile regression analysis," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 220-227.
    17. Luke N. Condra & Michael Callen & Radha K. Iyengar & James D. Long & Jacob N. Shapiro, 2019. "Damaging democracy? Security provision and turnout in Afghan elections†," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(2), pages 163-193, July.
    18. Catalina Tejada & Eliana Ferrara & Henrik Kleven & Florian Blum & Oriana Bandiera & Michel Azulai, 2015. "State Effectiveness, Growth, and Development," Working Papers id:6668, eSocialSciences.
    19. Beekman, Gonne & Nillesen, Eleonora & Voors, Maarten, 2018. "Sanctioning Regimes and Chief Quality: Evidence from Liberia," MERIT Working Papers 2018-011, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements


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