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Electoral Rules and the Quality of Politicians: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan

  • Andrew Beath
  • Fotini Christia
  • Georgy Egorov
  • Ruben Enikolopov

We examine the effect of electoral rules on the quality of elected officials using a unique field experiment which induced randomized variation in the method of council elections in 250 villages in Afghanistan. In particular, we compare at-large elections, with a single multi-member district, to district elections, with multiple single member districts. We propose a theoretical model where the difference in the quality of elected officials between the two electoral systems occurs because elected legislators have to bargain over policy, which induces citizens in district elections to vote strategically for candidates with more polarized policy positions even at the expense of candidates' competence. Consistent with the predictions of the model, we find that elected officials in at-large elections are more educated than those in district elections and that this effect is stronger in more heterogeneous villages. We also find evidence that elected officials in district elections have more biased preferences.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 20082.

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Date of creation: May 2014
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20082
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  1. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini & Francesco Trebbi, . "Electoral Rules and Corruption," Working Papers 182, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  2. Gary Cox, 1984. "Electoral equilibrium in double member districts," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(3), pages 443-451, January.
  3. Claudio Ferraz & Frederico Finan, 2009. "Motivating Politicians: The Impacts of Monetary Incentives on Quality and Performance," NBER Working Papers 14906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Antonio Merlo & Andrea Mattozzi, 2005. "Political Careers or Career Politicians?," 2005 Meeting Papers 740, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Daron Acemoglu & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2010. "Political Selection and Persistence of Bad Governments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(4), pages 1511-1575, November.
  6. Egorov, Georgy & Sonin, Konstantin, 2004. "Dictators and Their Viziers: Agency Problems in Dictatorships," CEPR Discussion Papers 4777, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Beath, Andrew & Christia, Fotini & Enikolopov, Ruben, 2012. "Empowering women : evidence from a field experiment in Afghanistan," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6269, The World Bank.
  8. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1999. "The size and scope of government:: Comparative politics with rational politicians," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 699-735, April.
  9. Ernesto Dal Bó & Frederico Finan & Martín A. Rossi, 2013. "Strengthening State Capabilities: The Role of Financial Incentives in the Call to Public Service," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(3), pages 1169-1218.
  10. Timothy Besley & Rohini Pande & Vijayendra Rao, 2005. "Political selection and the quality of government: evidence from south India," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3777, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  11. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1997. "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 85-114, February.
  12. Andrew Beath & Fotini Christia & Ruben Enikolopov, 2013. "Direct Democracy and Resource Allocation: Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan," Working Papers w0192, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
  13. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1982. "Perfect Equilibrium in a Bargaining Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 97-109, January.
  14. Beath, Andrew & Christia, Fotini & Enikolopov, Ruben, 2013. "Do elected councils improve governance ? experimental evidence on local institutions in Afghanistan," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6510, The World Bank.
  15. Timothy Besley & Rohini Pande & Vijayendra Rao, 2005. "Participatory Democracy in Action: Survey Evidence from South India," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 648-657, 04/05.
  16. Besley, Timothy & Folke, Olle & Persson, Torsten & Rickne, Johanna, 2013. "Gender Quotas and the Crisis of the Mediocre Man: Theory and Evidence from Sweden," Working Paper Series 985, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  17. Andrew Beath & Fotini Christia & Ruben Enikolopov, 2011. "Winning Hearts and Minds through Development Aid: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan," Working Papers w0166, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
  18. Alesina, Alberto & Rosenthal, Howard, 2000. "Polarized platforms and moderate policies with checks and balances," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 1-20, January.
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