Voting for Development? Ruling Coalitions and Literacy in India (with Rikhil Bhavnani).
Across the world, governments skew the distribution of state resources for political gain. This affects the distribution of goods that are easy to target and to claim credit for, and that can be changed in the short-run. But to what extent does politicization affect slow-moving development outcomes that are harder to target and claim credit for, particularly in the long run? Using a close-election instrumental variable design and drawing on a new socio-economic dataset of India’s state assembly constituencies in 1971 and 2001, we examine whether areas represented by members of state ruling coalitions experienced greater increases in literacy over 30 years. We find that constituencies that voted for ruling coalition members did not experience greater increases in literacy in the long run. The null effect is precisely estimated.
Party-candidate linkages and Party Institutionalization in the Indian States (with Pavithra Suryanarayan).
In this paper we investigate the strength and stability of party–candidate linkages, operationalized as Electoral Switching — the extent to which parties and candidates change alliances in consecutive elections. We argue that strong linkages are symptomatic of the institutionalization of parties, and that electoral switching therefore is a useful micro-level measure of party institutionalization. Using data on re-running patterns in over 3,200 constituencies in 15 Indian states between 1981 and 2007, we demonstrate great variation in electoral switching in Indian state elections. We investigate three theoretical intuitions behind these variations — the economy, social cleavages and the organizational capacity of parties. We find that stronger social cleavages, and particularly overlapping class and caste cleavages, are associated with more resilient party–candidate linkages. Electoral switching is also lower when places are more developed and when the economy is performing well. Finally, electoral switching is lower in places with stronger state and national parties.
While village-level quotas in India have brought hundreds of thousands of women to power in local politics, only 4.6% of the Members of Parliament (MPs) and 4.7% of the Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) in India have been women since 1961. Using a complete, new dataset of the more than 500,000 candidates in Indian state assembly and parliamentary elections 1961-2015, including almost 25,000 female candidates, I show that female candidates tend to do as well as male candidates in the elections where they run. Controlling for differences in candidate quality by using a regression discontinuity design (RDD) of close elections between male and female candidates, I also show that parties tend to re-nominate fewer of their female than their male incumbents and runner-ups. The findings indicate that it is party bias and a hostile political environment rather than voters bias that has made the inclusion of women in Indian politics so slow.
Privileging one’s own? Voting patterns and politicized spending in India (with Pradeep Chhibber)
A large literature has demonstrated that politicians manipulate the allocation of public resources with an eye to winning the next election. These findings contrasts with other work that shows that politicians often channel funds to their personal networks and supporters even when this is electorally inefficient. In this paper we argue that the choices of politicians are influenced by the type of party organization or other networks they are embedded in. Politicians linked to parties with a strong organizational structure or a clear social base will face strong pressures to allocate funds to their loyal supporters. Those from parties with weak organizational structures and a fluid social base are less constrained. Using village-level data data on the allocation of funds by politicians in India under a scheme called MPLADS (Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme), we show that MPs from ethnic and more organized political parties tend to allocate most of their resources to loyal supporters whereas politicians whose parties have weaker organizations and no clear ethnic constituency were less likely to do so. This pattern is repeated when we we exploit a natural experiment created by the implementation of new electoral boundaries in the 2009 election. Taken together these findings contribute to our understanding of when and why we observe different forms of manipulation of public resources across the world.
Violence Against Women as a Violation of Human Rights? Legal Change and the Resilience of Social Norms in Mexico (with Mala Htun)
One of the central achievements of the women’s movement has been the codification, in international law and the domestic legislation of many societies, of the notion that violence against women (VAW) constitutes a violation of human rights. Laws and public policies conceptualize VAW as a public matter (as opposed to a private, personal, or familial one) and assume responsibility, on the part of the state, to combat it. In this paper, we explore the extent to which legal and rhetorical changes on VAW have taken hold in social norms and cultural attitudes. When VAW happens, are people likely to report it to state authorities? To talk about it amongst themselves? To perceive it as a violation of rights? Or conversely, do they continue to view VAW as private and even shameful? We argue that laws on VAW grant ‘aspirational rights’ which, in order to be effective, require not just greater equality in access to resources and consistent enforcement but also a change in the status order of society. We examine variation in behavior and attitudes toward VAW across different groups of women by analyzing two waves of the Mexican national survey on the Dynamics of Household Relations (ENDIREH, 2006 and 2011). The data show that a tremendous number of women suffer from violence at the hands of partners. Though most women know about the law, very few are willing to step forward to claim their rights have been violated. What is more, a striking number attribute this failure to report episodes of VAW to their ‘unimportance.’ However, changes in the five years between the two surveys lend support to the notion that the law has begun to crack the status hierarchy privileging men and subordinating women.
Do Parties Matter at the Subdistrict Level of Politics? Evidence from mandals in Andhra Pradesh (with Andreas Kotsadam and Anirban Mitra)
Does the overall economic performance at the local level in India at all depend upon the party identity of the party or ideology of the politicians in power? Are there economic gains from being aligned across different levels of government? We examine such questions in the context of mandal (subdistrict) level elections in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, using unique mandal-level election results from 2001 and 2006 and nighttime light data. Our findings consistently show that the effect of party identity on economic outcomes as proxied by nighttime lights is not statistically significant and that we can reject even small effects. This suggests that ideology matters little when it comes to economic outcomes in this context. We also find no evidence of alignment gains in terms of economic activity.
Kinship in Indian Politics: Dynasties, nepotism and imagined families
Kinship, whether by blood or by imagination, plays an important role in Indian politics. It is visible in the frequent use of family terms used to address political allies and leaders, as well as to describe relations between both communities and countries. It is also evident in the high numbers of dynastic leaders in elected office. Family ties can help people succeed professionally or get out of trouble. The prevalence of nepotism has also affected both political discourses and institutional choices. This chapter reflects on the role of kinship in Indian politics and discusses why kinship-structures warrant more attention by those studying the role of India in the world.