Press: World Bank Development Impact Blog
Following democratization, how do elected politicians change the allocation of public resources in response to new voters? This paper studies this political responsiveness following Indonesia's transition to democracy, exploiting the staggered introduction of elected district heads for identification. By tracking outcomes across local governments, event study estimates compare the allocation of resources with and without an elected politician in office, at the same point in time, within the same broader institutional context. When elected district heads take office, night light growth is 2.6 percentage points greater across villages supporting the winning political party - an effect that's driven by districts with stronger media presence and political competition in the baseline. These effects, however, are not associated with improvements in local public goods. Disparities in night light growth are more pronounced during village head election years, suggesting that village officials - in addition to voters - are targeted with preferential favors by elected district administrations. Taken together, results suggest that democratization reshapes political responsiveness across new voter constituencies, but may do so through new clientelist systems rather than broader investment in public goods.
Theory suggests that decentralization can increase the efficiency of public service delivery - but only if elections are able to select accountable leaders. This paper tests this relationship between elections, accountability, and development outcomes following a large decentralization reform in Indonesia. By interacting simultaneous revenue windfalls with staggered election cycles at the village level, this reform generates plausibly exogenous differences in the exposure of villages to newly-appointed village heads following the reform. Findings suggest that newly-elected politicians generate increases in public service provision and night light intensity. Meanwhile, elections following the reform are associated with turnover in under-performing village heads, the appointment of better educated village heads, and heightened implementation of accountability measures mandated by the reform.
Exploiting Accountability: Reelection Incentives and Political Coercion [Draft available upon request.]
Reelection incentives are intended to hold politicians accountable to voters. This paper argues that in weakly institutionalized settings, central administrations may exploit these incentives to control local politicians. I study this phenomenon during Indonesia's transition to democracy, testing whether village head reelection concerns influenced support for the autocratic regime. Identification exploits the fact that village election cycles were independently staggered prior to Indonesia's nation-wide democratization. I find that villages with leaders facing more proximate elections are more likely to support the autocratic regime. Results disappear when village heads are not eligible for reelection, suggesting that reelection concerns motivate local politicians to generate support for the central administration. Additional evidence finds that government transfers to villages increase during village head election years, and that village support for winning district politicians is associated with lower rates of village head turnover.
Selected Work in Progress:
Clientelism and Community-Driven Development
Reelection Opportunities and Political Malfeasance
Lame Duck Politicians and Deforestation across Brazilian Municipalities