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Reshaping Institutions: Evidence on Aid Impacts Using a Pre-Analysis Plan

  • Katherine Casey
  • Rachel Glennerster
  • Edward Miguel

Although institutions are believed to be key determinants of economic performance, there is limited evidence on how they can be successfully reformed. Evaluating the effects of specific reforms is complicated by the lack of exogenous variation in the presence of institutions; the difficulty of empirically measuring institutional performance; and the temptation to "cherry pick" a few novel treatment effect estimates from amongst the large number of indicators required to capture the complex and multi-faceted subject. We evaluate one attempt to make local institutions more egalitarian by imposing minority participation requirements in Sierra Leone and test for longer term learning-by-doing effects. In so doing, we address these three pervasive challenges by: exploiting the random assignment of a participatory local governance intervention, developing innovative real-world outcomes measures, and using a pre-analysis plan to bind our hands against data mining. The specific program under study is a "community driven development" (CDD) project, which has become a popular strategy amongst donors to improve local institutions in developing countries. We find positive short-run effects on local public goods provision and economic outcomes, but no sustained impacts on collective action, decision-making processes, or the involvement of marginalized groups (like women) in local affairs, indicating that the intervention was ineffective at durably reshaping local institutions. We further show that in the absence of a pre-analysis plan, we could have instead generated two highly divergent, equally erroneous interpretations of the impacts--one positive, one negative--of external aid on institutions.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17012.

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Date of creation: May 2011
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Publication status: published as 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.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17012
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  1. Anderson, Michael L., 2008. "Multiple Inference and Gender Differences in the Effects of Early Intervention: A Reevaluation of the Abecedarian, Perry Preschool, and Early Training Projects," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 103(484), pages 1481-1495.
  2. Beaman, Lori & Chattopadhyay, Raghabendra & Duflo, Esther & Pande, Rohini & Topalova, Petia, 2008. "Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?," CEPR Discussion Papers 6922, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Abhijit Banerjee & Rukmini Banerji & Esther Duflo & Rachel Glennerster & Stuti Khemani, 2008. "Pitfalls of Participatory Programs: Evidence From a Randomized Evaluation in Education in India," NBER Working Papers 14311, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. James Fearon & Macartan Humphreys & Jeremy Weinstein, 2009. "Development Assistance, Institution Building, and Social Cohesion after Civil War: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Liberia," Working Papers 194, Center for Global Development.
  8. 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.
  9. Ghazala Mansuri, 2004. "Community-Based and -Driven Development: A Critical Review," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 19(1), pages 1-39.
  10. Martin Osborne & Jeffry Rosenthal & Matthew A. Turner, 1998. "Meetings with costly participation," Working Papers mturner-98-02, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
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