Political Reservations and Rural Public Good Provision in India
This paper asks whether political representation for historically disadvantaged groups can serve as an effective means to redress historical inequities. The Indian Constitution mandates reservations for two such groups, Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), in federal and state legislatures. While this policy has been successful in ensuring the political presence of minority legislators, evidence on their performance in serving the interests of their electorate is limited to the analysis of aggregate expenditure patterns. This paper is the first to establish a causal link between the reservation of seats in state legislatures and rural public good provision, and to explore its implications for the inter- and within-district pattern of provision. The sample is drawn from 9 Indian states, and uses village census data aggregated to 64 districts and 610 electoral constituencies. The empirical strategy exploits features of the process of reservation to identify an exogenous source of variation that affects reservation discontinuously. With a few exceptions, I find no evidence that ST legislators perform any differently than legislators elected from unreserved constituencies. However, SC legislators perform better, providing greater access to educational facilities, in particular, primary schools, within their districts and constituencies. In addition, these schools are located within constituencies so as to favor of their own community, as well as ST voters. Overall, these findings do not support the prediction that political reservation adversely affects the responsiveness to minority interests or politician quality, at least insofar as these affect the provision of public goods.
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