Centre for Development Economics
Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics



Networks, Commitment, and Competence:
Caste in Indian Local Politics 


Kaivan Munshi

Brown University

Tuesday, 23rd July 2013 at 3:00 PM

Venue : Seminar Room (First Floor)
Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics

All are cordially invited


This paper widens the scope of the emerging literature on economic networks by assessing the role of caste networks in Indian local politics. We test the hypothesis that these networks can discipline their members to overcome political commitment problems, enabling communities to select their most competent representatives, while at the same time ensuring that they honor the public goods preferences of their constituents. Using detailed data on local public goods at the street level and the characteristics of constituents and their elected representatives at the ward level over multiple terms, and exploiting the random system of reserving local council seats for caste groups, we fi nd that caste discipline results in the election of representatives with superior observed characteristics and the provision of a signifi cantly greater level of public goods. This improvement in political competence occurs without apparently diminishing leaders’ responsiveness to the preferences of their constituents, although the constituency is narrowly de fined by the sub-caste rather than the electorate as a whole.



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