The Price of Power: Costs of Political Corruption in Indian Electricity

Politicians may target public goods to benefit their constituents, at the expense of others. I study corruption in the context of Indian electricity and estimate the welfare consequences. Using new administrative billing data and close-election regression discontinuities, I show that billed electricity consumption is lower for constituencies of the winning party, while actual consumption, measured by nighttime lights, is higher. I document the covert way in which politicians subsidize constituents by manipulating bills. These actions have substantial welfare implications, with an efficiency loss of over $0.6 billion, leading to unreliable electricity supply and significant negative consequences for development.