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Direct Democracy and Local Public Goods: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia

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  • Benjamin A. Olken

Abstract

This paper presents an experiment where 48 Indonesian villages were randomly assigned to choose development projects through either representative-based meetings or direct election-based plebiscites. Plebiscites resulted in dramatically higher satisfaction among villagers, increased knowledge about the project, greater perceived benefits, and higher reported willingness to contribute. Changing the political mechanism had much smaller effects on the actual projects selected, with some evidence that plebiscites resulted in projects chosen by women being located in poorer areas. The results show that direct participation in political decision making can substantially increase satisfaction and legitimacy, even when it has little effect on actual decisions.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin A. Olken, 2008. "Direct Democracy and Local Public Goods: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia," NBER Working Papers 14123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14123
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Leonard Wantchekon, 2003. "Clientelism and voting behavior: Evidence from a field experiment in benin," Natural Field Experiments 00339, The Field Experiments Website.
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    3. Raghabendra Chattopadhyay & Esther Duflo, 2004. "Women as Policy Makers: Evidence from a Randomized Policy Experiment in India," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1409-1443, September.
    4. Pranab Bardhan & Dilip Mookherjee, 2006. "Decentralisation and Accountability in Infrastructure Delivery in Developing Countries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(508), pages 101-127, January.
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    6. Seema Jayachandran, 2006. "Selling Labor Low: Wage Responses to Productivity Shocks in Developing Countries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(3), pages 538-575, June.
    7. John Matsusaka, 2005. "The eclipse of legislatures: Direct democracy in the 21st century," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 124(1), pages 157-177, July.
    8. repec:cup:apsrev:v:100:y:2006:i:04:p:627-635_06 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 2002. "Participation and Development: Perspectives from the Comprehensive Development Paradigm," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(2), pages 163-182, June.
    10. Benjamin A. Olken, 2007. "Monitoring Corruption: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 200-249.
    11. John G. Matsusaka, 2005. "Direct Democracy Works," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 185-206, Spring.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Gonçalves, Sónia, 2014. "The Effects of Participatory Budgeting on Municipal Expenditures and Infant Mortality in Brazil," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 94-110.
    2. Chikako Yamauchi, 2010. "Community-Based Targeting and Initial Local Conditions: Evidence from Indonesia's IDT Program," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(1), pages 95-147, October.
    3. William Easterly, 2009. "Can the West Save Africa?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 373-447, June.
    4. Bruno Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2010. "Happiness and public choice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 144(3), pages 557-573, September.
    5. Thomas de Hoop & Ricardo Fort & Luuk van Kempen, 2009. "Do people invest in local public goods with long-term benefits? Experimental evidence from a shanty town in peru," Artefactual Field Experiments 00070, The Field Experiments Website.
    6. Katherine Casey & Rachel Glennerster & Edward Miguel, 2012. "Reshaping Institutions: Evidence on Aid Impacts Using a Preanalysis Plan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(4), pages 1755-1812.
    7. Luca Corazzini & Sebastian Kube & Michel Andr� Mar�chal & Antonio Nicol�, 2009. "Elections and deceptions: an experimental study on the behavioral effects of democracy," IEW - Working Papers 421, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich, revised Aug 2013.
    8. Emanuel Towfigh & Andreas Glöckner & Sebastian Goerg & Philip Leifeld & Carlos Kurschilgen & Aniol Llorente-Saguer & Sophie Bade, 2013. "Does Political Representation through Parties Decrease Voters' Acceptance of Decisions?," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2013_10, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

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

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