Targeting public goods to the poor in a segregated economy: An empirical analysis of central mandates in rural India
While local governments are increasingly being vested with control over funds for public goods, concern over the capture of decentralized funds by local elites has led decentralization to be combined with central mandates which require a certain proportion of funds to directly benefit the poor. If local capture is pervasive, however, central mandates may not be effective. Despite the popularity of this combination of decentralization and centralized control, there is little empirical evidence which separately identifies their effect on investment in public goods, and hence assesses the effectiveness of central mandates. This paper provides such evidence, using data collected by the authors for the North Indian state of Punjab, an economy where economic conditions facilitate such an analysis. We find that central mandates are effective, enhancing intra-village equality in expenditure on public goods. This finding informs the debate on the equity effects of centralized versus decentralized programs.
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