Electoral Rules and the Quality of Politicians: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan

73 Pages Posted: 6 May 2014 Last revised: 15 Nov 2021

See all articles by Andrew Beath

Andrew Beath

World Bank

Fotini Christia

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Georgy Egorov

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management; NBER

Ruben Enikolopov

New Economic School; Institute of Political Economy and Governance; ICREA; Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Barcelona GSE

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2014

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Beath, Andrew and Christia, Fotini and Egorov, Georgy and Enikolopov, Ruben and Enikolopov, Ruben, Electoral Rules and the Quality of Politicians: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan (May 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20082, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2432826

Andrew Beath

World Bank ( email )

Washington, DC 20433
United States

Fotini Christia

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Georgy Egorov

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

NBER ( email )

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United States

Ruben Enikolopov

New Economic School ( email )

Skolkovskoe shosse 45
Moscow, Skolkovo 143026
Russia

Institute of Political Economy and Governance ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain

ICREA ( email )

Passeig LluĂ­s Companys, 23
Barcelona, 08010
Spain

Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, E-08005
Spain

Barcelona GSE ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, Barcelona 08005
Spain

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