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Value for money? Vote-buying and politician accountability

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  • Leight, Jessica
  • Foarta, Dana
  • Pande, Rohini
  • Ralston, Laura

Abstract

The prevalence of vote-buying is widely identified as a cause of poor governance in the developing world; potential mechanisms for this relationship include the selection of lower quality politicians, and the reduced accountability experienced by politicians once elected. In this paper, we present the first experimental evidence in support of the second channel of reduced accountability. Using data from laboratory experiments conducted in the U.S. and Kenya, we find that vote payments reduce voters' willingness to hold politicians accountable: holding fixed politician identity, voters who receive payments are less willing to punish the politician for rent-seeking, and this reduction in punishment is larger in magnitude when payments are widely targeted. Unsurprisingly, the politician then engages in a higher level of rent-seeking. A simple model of multi-faceted social preferences encompassing reciprocity and inequality aversion is consistent with these findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Leight, Jessica & Foarta, Dana & Pande, Rohini & Ralston, Laura, 2020. "Value for money? Vote-buying and politician accountability," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:190:y:2020:i:c:s0047272720300918
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104227
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    Cited by:

    1. Pranab K. Bardhan, 2021. "Clientelism and governance," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2021-116, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. Pranab Bardhan & Sandip Mitra & Dilip Mookherjee & Anusha Nath, 2020. "How Do Voters Respond to Welfare vis-à-vis Public Good Programs? An Empirical Test for Clientelism," Staff Report 605, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Vote-buying; Politician accountability; Social preferences; Laboratory experiments;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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