The Added Value of Local Democracy: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in India
We study the economic effects of local democracy, exploiting a natural experiment in Karnataka, India. The COVID-induced suspension of elections generated quasi-random variation in democratic rule, as villages whose elected leader completed their term in 2020 had bureaucrats appointed to govern them throughout the pandemic. We find that local democracy aligns spending more with citizen preferences, but is less responsive to the preferences of disadvantaged groups. Elected leaders are more responsive to citizen needs and cause local bureaucrats to exert more effort. Appointed administrators perform better on aspects of governance that require the specialised skills they possess. Local democracy improves governance in some domains, but has no overall impact on local economic growth.

Written with Abhishek Arora (Harvard), Siddharth George (NUS), Vijayendra Rao (World Bank), MR Sharan (Maryland)
Date: 15 February 2023, 12:30 (Wednesday, 5th week, Hilary 2023)
Venue: Manor Road Building, Manor Road OX1 3UQ
Venue Details: Lecture Theatre
Speaker: Vijayendra Rao (World Bank)
Organising department: Department of Economics
Organisers: Alison Andrew (University of Oxford), Dennis Egger (University of Oxford), Niclas Moneke (University of Oxford)
Organiser contact email address:
Part of: CSAE Lunchtime Seminars
Booking required?: Not required
Audience: Public
Editors: Suzanne George, Claire Goode