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Women Political Leaders, Corruption, and Learning: Evidence from a Large Public Program in India

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  • Farzana Afridi
  • Vegard Iversen
  • M. R. Sharan

Abstract

We exploit randomly assigned political quotas for women to identify the impact of women’s political leadership on corruption and on the governance of India’s largest poverty-alleviation program to date. Using survey data, we find more program inefficiencies and leakages in village councils reserved for women heads: political and administrative inexperience make such councils more vulnerable to bureaucratic capture. This is at odds with claims of unconditional gains from women assuming political office. A panel of official audit reports enables us to explore (a) whether newly elected women leaders in reserved seats initially perform worse; (b) whether they partly catch up, fully catch up, or eventually outperform (male) leaders in unreserved seats; and (c) the time it takes for such catch-up to occur. We find that women leaders in reserved seats initially underperform but rapidly learn and quickly and fully catch up with male politicians in unreserved seats. Over the duration of their elected tenure, we find no evidence of overtake. Our findings suggest short-term costs of affirmative action policies but also that once initial disadvantages recede, women leaders are neither more nor less effective local politicians than men.

Suggested Citation

  • Farzana Afridi & Vegard Iversen & M. R. Sharan, 2017. "Women Political Leaders, Corruption, and Learning: Evidence from a Large Public Program in India," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66(1), pages 1-30.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:ecdecc:doi:10.1086/693679
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    Cited by:

    1. Boris Branisa & Carolina Cardona, 2015. "Social Institutions and Gender Inequality in Fragile States: Are They Relevant for the Post-MDG Debate?," Southern Voice Occasional Paper 21, Southern Voice.
    2. Xu, Guo, 2013. "Development through Empowerment: Delivering Effective Public Services – a Literature Review," ADB Economics Working Paper Series 382, Asian Development Bank.
    3. Gupta, Bhanu & Mukhopadhyay, Abhiroop, 2016. "Local funds and political competition: Evidence from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 14-30.
    4. Ghani, Ejaz & Mani, Anandi & O'Connell, Stephen D., 2013. "Can political empowerment help economic empowerment ? women leaders and female labor force participation in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6675, The World Bank.
    5. Sofia Amaral & Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Rudra Sensarma, 2015. "Public work programmes and gender-based violence- the case of NREGA in India," Working papers 176, Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode.
    6. Kodila-Tedika, Oasis, 2013. "Femmes au pouvoir et Pouvoir des femmes : Qu’est-ce qui se passe en Afrique ?
      [Women in power and power of women: What is happening in Africa?]
      ," MPRA Paper 48776, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Afridi, Farzana, 2017. "Governance and Public Service Delivery in India," IZA Discussion Papers 10856, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Anukriti, S & Chakravarty, Abhishek, 2015. "Political Aspirations in India: Evidence from Fertility Limits on Local Leaders," IZA Discussion Papers 9023, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Farzana Afridi & Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay & Soham Sahoo, 2016. "Female labor force participation and child education in India: evidence from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme," IZA Journal of Labor & Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-27, December.
    10. Bell, Clive & Mukhopadhyay, Abhiroop, 2015. "Income Guarantees and Borrowing in Risky Environments: Evidence from India's Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme," IZA Discussion Papers 9357, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • P26 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Political Economy
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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