Democratic Participation

Callen, Michael, and James D. Long. 2015. “Institutional Corruption and Election Fraud: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan.” American Economic Review 105 (1): 354-81. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We investigate the relationship between political networks, weak institutions, and election fraud during the 2010 parliamentary election in Afghanistan combining: (i) data on political connections between candidates and election officials; (ii) a nationwide controlled evaluation of a novel monitoring technology; and (iii) direct measurements of aggregation fraud. We find considerable evidence of aggregation fraud in favor of connected candidates and that the announcement of a new monitoring technology reduced theft of election materials by about 60 percent and vote counts for connected candidates by about 25 percent. The results have implications for electoral competition and are potentially actionable for policymakers.

M. Callen in AER on Institutional Corruption in Afghanistan
Banerjee, Abhijit, Donald Green, Jeffrey McManus, and Rohini Pande. 2014. “Are Poor Voters Indifferent to Whether Elected Leaders are Criminal or Corrupt? A Vignette Experiment in Rural India.” Political Communications 31 (3): 391-407.Abstract

Although in theory, elections are supposed to prevent criminal or venal candidates from winning or retaining office, in practice voters frequently elect and re-elect such candidates. This surprising pattern is sometimes explained by reference to voters’ underlying preferences, which are thought to favor criminal or corrupt candidates because of the patronage they provide. This paper tests this hypothesis using data from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where one in four representatives in the state legislature has a serious criminal record and where political corruption is widespread. Contrary to the voter preference hypothesis, voters presented with vignettes that randomly vary the attributes of competing legislative candidates for local, state, and national office become much less likely to express a preference for candidates who are alleged to be criminal or corrupt. Moreover, voters’ education status, ethnicity, and political knowledge are unrelated to their distaste for criminal and venal candidates. The results imply that the electoral performance of candidates who face serious allegations likely reflects factors other than voters’ preferences for patronage, such as limited information about candidate characteristics or the absence of credible alternative candidates with clean records. 

Yanagizawa-Drott, David. 2014. “Propaganda and Conflict: Evidence from the Rwandan Genocide.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 129 (4). Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper investigates the role of mass media in times of conflict and state-sponsored mass violence against civilians. We use a unique village-level dataset from the Rwandan Genocide to estimate the impact of a popular radio station that encouraged violence against the Tutsi minority population. The results show that the broadcasts had a significant impact on participation in killings by both militia groups and ordinary civilians. An estimated 51,000 perpetrators, or approximately 10 percent of the overall violence, can be attributed to the station. The broadcasts increased militia violence not only directly by influencing behavior in villages with radio reception, but also indirectly by increasing participation in neighboring villages. In fact, spillovers are estimated to have
caused more militia violence than the direct effects. Thus, the paper provides evidence that mass media can affect participation in violence directly due to exposure, and indirectly due to social interactions.

Callen, Michael, and Nils B. Weidmann. 2013. “Violence and Election Fraud: Evidence from Afghanistan.” British Journal of Political Science 43 (1): 53-75. Publisher's VersionAbstract
What explains local variation in electoral manipulation in countries with ongoing internal conflict? The theory of election fraud developed in this article relies on the candidates’ loyalty networks as the agents manipulating the electoral process. It predicts (i) that the relationship between violence and fraud follows an inverted U-shape and (ii) that loyalty networks of both incumbent and challenger react differently to the security situation on the ground. Disaggregated violence and election results data from the 2009 Afghanistan presidential election provide empirical results consistent with this theory. Fraud is measured both by a forensic measure, and by using results from a visual inspection of a random sample of the ballot boxes. The results align with the two predicted relationships, and are robust to other violence and fraud measures.
Yanagizawa-Drott, David. 2012. “Propaganda and conflict: theory and evidence from the Rwandan genocide”.Abstract

This paper investigates the role of mass media in times of conflict and state-sponsored violence. A model of collective violence is presented where mass media has the potential to increase participation in conflict by facilitating coordination, in addition to any direct effect on behavior due to content. Guided by the insights of the model, the paper uses a unique nation-wide village-level dataset from the Rwandan Genocide to estimate the impact of radio broadcasts that called for the extermination of the Tutsi minority, and are commonly believed to have played a signi…ficant role in fueling the violence. The results show that the broadcasts increased participation in the killings. They indicate that approximately 10 percent, or an estimated 51,000 perpetrators, of the participation in the violence during the Rwandan Genocide can be attributed to the effects of the radio. Violence that inherently requires more coordination, such as militia and army violence, was also more affected by the broadcasts. Together with a set of results presented in the paper, the evidence indicates that mass media can in part affect conflict by functioning as a coordination device.

Pande, Rohini, Lori Beaman, Esther Duflo, and Peptia Topalava. 2012. “Female Leadership Raises Aspirations and Educational Attainment for Girls: A Policy Experiment in India.” Science 335 (6068): 582-586. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Exploiting a randomized natural experiment in India, we show that female leadership influences adolescent girls’ career aspirations and educational attainment. A 1993 law reserved leadership positions for women in randomly selected village councils. Using 8,453 surveys of adolescents aged 11-15 and their parents in 495 villages, we find that, compared to villages that were never reserved, the gender gap in aspirations closed by 25% in parents and 32% in adolescents in villages assigned to a female leader for two election cycles. The gender gap in adolescent educational attainment is erased and girls spent less time on household chores. We find no evidence of changes in young women’s labor market opportunities, suggesting that the impact of women leaders primarily reflects a role model effect.

Pande, Rohini. 2011. “Can Informed Voters Enforce Better Governance? Experiments in Low Income Democracies.” Annual Review of Economics 3 (1): 215-237. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This article evaluates a body of recent work which uses field and natural experiments to answer this question. A common finding in the literature is that voter behavior is malleable and that in-formation about the political process and politician performance improves electoral accountability. Limited availability of information thus provides one explanation for the persistence of low quality politicians and the existence of identity politics and electoral malpractices in low-income democracies. Understanding how voters can gain access to credible sources of information and how politicians react to improved information about their performance are promising avenues for future research

Pande, Rohini, Lori Beaman, Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, Esther Duflo, and Petia Topalova. 2009. “Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 124 (4): 1497-1540. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We exploit random assignment of gender quotas for leadership positions on Indian village councils to show that prior exposure to a female leader is associated with electoral gains for women. After ten years of quotas, women are more likely to stand for, and win, elected positions in councils required to have a female chief councilor in the previous two elections. We provide experimental and survey evidence on one channel of influence—changes in voter attitudes. Prior exposure to a female chief councilor improves perceptions of female leader effectiveness and weakens stereotypes about gender roles in the public and domestic spheres.

Pande, Rohini, and Abhijit Banerjee. 2009. “Parochial Politics: Ethnic Preferences and Politician Corruption”.Abstract

This paper examines how increased voter ethnicization, denied as greater voter preference for the party representing her ethnic group, aects legislator quality. In situations where parties and politicians cannot commit to policies prior to the election, ethnicization reduces average winner quality for the pro-majority party, with the opposite true for the minority party. Overall, the average winner-loser quality gap reduces. These eects increase with greater numerical dominance of the majority and are absent in jurisdictions with equal-sized voter groups. Empirical evidence from a survey on politician corruption in North India is remarkably consistent with our theoretical predictions.

Yanagizawa-Drott, David, and Nancy Qian. 2009. “The Strategic Determinants of U.S. Human Rights Reporting: Evidence from the Cold War.” Journal of the European Economic Association 7 (2-3): 446-457. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper uses a country-level panel dataset to test the hypothesis that the United States biases its human rights reports of countries based on the latters’ strategic value. We use the difference between the U.S. State Department’s and Amnesty International’s reports as a measure of U.S. "bias". For plausibly exogenous variation in strategic value to the U.S., we compare this bias between U.S. Cold War (CW) allies to non-CW allies, before and after the CW ended. The results show that allying with the U.S. during the CW significantly improves reports on a country’s human rights situation from the U.S. State Department relative to Amnesty International.

Pande, Rohini. 2007. “Understanding Political Corruption in Low Income Countries.” In: Handbook of Development Economics, T. Schultz and J. Strauss Eds. 2007., 4, 3155-3184. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Building on the large and growing empirical literature on the political behavior of individuals in low income countries this chapter seeks to understand corruption through the lens of political economy -- particularly in terms of the political and economic differences between rich and poor countries. Our focus is on the political behavior of individuals exposed to democratic political institutions. We review the existing literature on the determinants of individual political behavior to ask whether we can understand the choice of political actors to be corrupt and, importantly, of other individuals to permit it, as a rational response to the social or the economic environment they inhabit. We also discuss the implications of this view of corruption for anti-corruption policies.