Centre for Development Economics
Department of Economics

Delhi School of Economics


The Pursuit of Power: The Causes and Consequences of Local Political Selection in Bihar


Ramakrishna Sharan
Mamidipudi (University of Maryland)
 ( Apurva Bamezai, Siddharth George, Borui Sun)



(Monday, July 24, 2023, 3:15 PM IST)
Venue: Amex Room 


Who becomes a local politician? Matching census data of 9.5 crore rural residents and nearly 10 lakh local politicians from Bihar, we uncover the following facts: firstly, politicians possess significantly higher levels of education compared to the average citizen in their villages, but come from households that are not always more elite; secondly, the impact of these trends varies across different groups, with women, lower ranked candidates and lower levels of government demonstrating less positive selection; thirdly, selection patterns show slight variation across various village characteristics such as poverty, inequality, and caste heterogeneity. Subsequently, we argue that policy intervention can meaningfully influence selection patterns. Firstly, a policy move to devolve financial powers attracts a larger pool of candidates and selects better winners. Secondly, gender-based reservation marginally reduces political competition but promotes a more inclusive selection process by encouraging candidates from less elite backgrounds. Lastly, using a close election regression discontinuity design, we explore the influence of leaders’ education on policy implementation. We contend that the relationship between education and policy outcomes is complex, contingent upon the specific nature of the implemented schemes. Taken together, our findings highlight the significance of studying the fiercely competitive landscape of local democracy in understanding the factors contributing to, and consequences of, political selection.

All are cordially invited.

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