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Research related to:  Public Goods

Political Turnover, Bureacratic Turnover, and the Quality of Public Services

We study how political party turnover in mayoral elections in Brazil affects the provision of public education. Exploiting a regression discontinuity design for close elections, we find that municipalities with a new party in office have test scores that are 0.05-0.08 standard deviations lower than comparable municipalities with no change in the political party. 

Akhtari, Mitra, Diana Moreira, and Laura Trucco

Broken Cities: The Effect of Government Responsiveness on Citizens' Participation

What is the impact of government responsiveness on citizens’ participation in local public goods provision? I explore whether government receptiveness to requests for maintenance work (e.g., sidewalk repairs, tree pruning) affects the likelihood that citizens will demand new government projects. I ran a field experiment in collaboration with the Government of the City of Buenos Aires that generated an exogenous increase in repairs of broken sidewalks reported by citizens. I find that when the government repairs sidewalks after citizens file complaints, other citizens are more likely to issue additional requests for public maintenance work.

Laura Trucco

Political Survival and Endogenous Institutional Change

Incumbent political leaders risk deposition by challengers within the existing political rules and by revolutionary threats. Building on Bueno de Mesquita, Smith, Siverson, and Morrow’s selectorate theory, the model here examines the policy responses of office-seeking leaders to revolutionary threats. Whether leaders suppress public goods such as freedom of assembly and freedom of information to hinder the organizational ability of potential revolutionaries or appease potential revolutionaries by increasing the provision of public goods depends, in part, on the sources of government revenues. Empirical tests show that governments with access to revenue sources that require few labor inputs by the citizens, such as natural resource rents or foreign aid, reduce the provision of public goods and increase the odds of increased authoritarianism in the face of revolutionary pressures. In contrast without these sources of unearned revenues, governments respond to revolutionary pressures by increasing the provision of public goods and democratizing.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, NYU and Alastair Smith, NYU

Tanzania's Economic and Political Performance: A District-Level Test of Selectorate Theory

Hypotheses derived from the selectorate theory of political survival are tested against Tanzanian district-level data. We assess the extent to which resource allocations within Tanzania depend on the size of the district-level presidential winning coalition and the presidential support coalition. Using indicators that precisely measure coalition size given Tanzania’s electoral rules, we find that smaller winning coalition districts emphasize private goods allocations such as maize vouchers and road construction. Larger coalition districts emphasize public goods provision such as better health care access, residential electrification, greater income equality, and a lower infant mortality rate. These findings hold with controls for poverty, productivity, and population. Support coalition size – that is, total vote share for the winning party – generally has an insignificant effect on public and private goods allocations. Likewise, the control variables generally have little effect . . . 
Alastair Smith, NYU and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, NYU

Monitoring Works: Getting Teachers to Come to School

In the rural areas of developing countries, teacher absence is a widespread problem. This paper tests whether a simple incentive program based on teacher presence can reduce teacher absence, and whether it has the potential to lead to more teaching activities and better learning. In 60 informal one-teacher schools in rural India, randomly chosen out of 120 (the treatment schools), a financial incentive program was initiated to reduce absenteeism . . . 
Rema Hanna, Wagner School of Public Service, New York University; Esther Duflo, Department of Economics, MIT

Information, Social Networks and the Demand for Public Goods: Experimental Evidence from Benin

This paper empirically investigates the effects of memberships in information and social networks on the demand for public goods. The data originate from a unique …field experiment that took place during the …first round of the 2001 presidential elections in Benin. Randomly selected villages were exposed to "purely" redistributive or "purely" national public goods electoral platforms, while the remaining villages were exposed to standard mixed platforms. We …find that individuals who are exposed to media or who are members of local associations have higher demand for public goods, while voters who are more involved in political discussions demand less. Ceteris paribus, demand for public goods is higher among voters who have ethnic ties with a candidate, are more educated or female, but we fi…nd no modifying effect of religion or socio-economic status.
Leonard Wantchekon and Christel Vermeersch