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Networks, Commitment, and Competence: Caste in Indian Local Politics

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  • Kaivan Munshi
  • Mark Rosenzweig

Abstract

This paper widens the scope of the emerging literature on economic networks by assessing the role of caste networks in Indian local politics. We test the hypothesis that these networks can discipline their members to overcome political commitment problems, enabling communities to select their most competent representatives, while at the same time ensuring that they honor the public goods preferences of their constituents. Using detailed data on local public goods at the street level and the characteristics of constituents and their elected representatives at the ward level over multiple terms, and exploiting the random system of reserving local council seats for caste groups, we find that caste discipline results in the election of representatives with superior observed characteristics and the provision of a significantly greater level of public goods. This improvement in political competence occurs without apparently diminishing leaders' responsiveness to the preferences of their constituents, although the constituency is narrowly defined by the sub-caste rather than the electorate as a whole.

Suggested Citation

  • Kaivan Munshi & Mark Rosenzweig, 2013. "Networks, Commitment, and Competence: Caste in Indian Local Politics," NBER Working Papers 19197, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19197
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    Cited by:

    1. Panle Jia Barwick & Yanyan Liu & Eleonora Patacchini & Qi Wu, 2019. "Information, Mobile Communication, and Referral Effects," NBER Working Papers 25873, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. repec:eee:wdevel:v:103:y:2018:i:c:p:1-13 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Bidner, Chris & Eswaran, Mukesh, 2015. "A gender-based theory of the origin of the caste system of India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 142-158.
    4. Girard, Victoire, 2018. "Don’t Touch My Road. Evidence from India on Affirmative Action And Everyday Discrimination," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 1-13.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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