IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Who Becomes a Politician?

Listed author(s):
  • Ernesto Dal Bó
  • Frederico Finan
  • Olle Folke
  • Torsten Persson
  • Johanna Rickne

Can a democracy attract competent leaders, while attaining broad representation? Economic models suggest that free-riding incentives and lower opportunity costs give the less competent a comparative advantage at entering political life. Moreover, if elites have more human capital, selecting on competence may lead to uneven representation. This paper examines patterns of political selection among the universe of municipal politicians and national legislators in Sweden, using extraordinarily rich data on competence traits and social background for the entire population. We document four new facts that together characterize an “inclusive meritocracy.” First, politicians are on average significantly smarter and better leaders than the population they represent. Second, this positive selection is present even when conditioning on family (and hence social) background, suggesting that individual competence is key for selection. Third, the representation of social background, whether measured by parental earnings or occupational social class, is remarkably even. Fourth, there is at best a weak tradeoff in selection between competence and social representation, mainly due to strong positive selection of politicians of low (parental) socioeconomic status. A broad implication of these facts is that it is possible for democracy to generate competent and socially-representative leadership.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w23120.pdf
Download Restriction: Access to the full text is generally limited to series subscribers, however if the top level domain of the client browser is in a developing country or transition economy free access is provided. More information about subscriptions and free access is available at http://www.nber.org/wwphelp.html. Free access is also available to older working papers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23120.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: Feb 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23120
Note: DEV PE POL
Contact details of provider: Postal:
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page: http://www.nber.org
Email:


More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as
in new window


  1. Folke, Olle & Rickne, Johanna, 2014. "The Glass Ceiling in Politics: Formalization and Empirical Tests," Working Paper Series 1034, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  2. 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.
  3. Delfgaauw, Josse & Dur, Robert, 2007. "Signaling and screening of workers' motivation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(4), pages 605-624, April.
  4. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 1997. "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 85-114.
  5. Stefano Gagliarducci & M. Daniele Paserman, 2012. "Gender Interactions within Hierarchies: Evidence from the Political Arena," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(3), pages 1021-1052.
  6. Ernesto Dal Bó & Pedro Dal Bó & Jason Snyder, 2009. "Political Dynasties," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 115-142.
  7. Caselli, Francesco & Morelli, Massimo, 2004. "Bad politicians," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 759-782, March.
  8. 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, 09.
  9. Erik Meyersson, 2014. "Islamic Rule and the Empowerment of the Poor and Pious," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82(1), pages 229-269, 01.
  10. Ruixue Jia & Masayuki Kudamatsu & David Seim, 2015. "Political Selection In China: The Complementary Roles Of Connections And Performance," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 631-668, 08.
  11. Antonio Merlo & Vincenzo Galasso & Massimiliano Landi & Andrea Mattozzi, 2008. "The Labor Market of Italian Politicians," Working Papers 15-2008, Singapore Management University, School of Economics, revised Oct 2008.
  12. Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2005. "Do Leaders Matter? National Leadership and Growth Since World War II," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 835-864.
  13. Martin J. Osborne & Al Slivinski, 1996. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(1), pages 65-96.
  14. Rohini Pande, 2003. "Can Mandated Political Representation Increase Policy Influence for Disadvantaged Minorities? Theory and Evidence from India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1132-1151, September.
  15. Messner, Matthias & Polborn, Mattias K., 2004. "Paying politicians," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2423-2445, December.
    • Matthias Messner & Mattias Polborn, 2003. "Paying Politicians," Working Papers 246, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  16. Timothy Besley & Jose G. Montalvo & Marta Reynal‐Querol, 2011. "Do Educated Leaders Matter?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(554), pages 205-205, 08.
  17. Heléne Lundqvist, 2013. "Is it worth it? On the returns to holding political office," Working Papers 2013/14, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  18. Ernesto Dal Bó & Martín A. Rossi, 2011. "Term Length and the Effort of Politicians," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(4), pages 1237-1263.
  19. Andrew Beath & Fotini Christia & Georgy Egorov & Ruben Enikolopov, 2014. "Electoral Rules and the Quality of Politicians: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan," NBER Working Papers 20082, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. 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.
  21. Folke, Olle & Persson, Torsten & Rickne, Johanna, 2014. "Preferential Voting, Accountability and Promotions into Political Power: Evidence from Sweden," Working Paper Series 1002, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23120. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.