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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. 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.
  2. Daron Acemoglu & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2009. "Political Selection and Persistence of Bad Governments," NBER Working Papers 15230, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Timothy Besley & Rohini Pande & Vijayendra Rao, 2005. "Political Selection and the Quality of Government: Evidence from South India," STICERD - Political Economy and Public Policy Paper Series 08, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
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  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. 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).
  10. 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.
  11. Ernesto Dal Bó & Frederico Finan & Martín Rossi, 2012. "Strengthening State Capabilities: The Role of Financial Incentives in the Call to Public Service," NBER Working Papers 18156, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2005. "Dictators and Their Viziers: Agency Problems in Dictatorships," Economics Working Papers 0053, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  14. Beath, Andrew & Christia, Fotini & Enikolopov, Ruben, 2012. "Direct democracy and resource allocation : experimental evidence from Afghanistan," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6133, The World Bank.
  15. 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.
  16. Tim Besley & Stephen Coate, . ""An Economic Model of Representative Democracy''," CARESS Working Papres 95-02, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  17. Gary Cox, 1984. "Electoral equilibrium in double member districts," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(3), pages 443-451, January.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
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