Sunday, May 3, 2009

Studies on vote buying and salaries of legislators

Two interesting papers relevant to the election season

1. Frederico Finan and Laura Schechter claim that vote-buying is sustained by an "internalized norm of reciprocity" arising from social preferences. They find that "citizens who receive money from a candidate feel obliged to vote for him and citizens who do not receive money from a candidate feel a desire not to vote for him". They show that "politicians are 15 percentage points more likely to offer reciprocal individuals something in exchange for their votes. Reciprocal individuals are in turn 15.9 percent more likely to vote for the party that offered them a good". In other words, the surest way to seal a vote is to offer cash payments to those belonging to the candidates community or caste network. It also partially explains the persistance of caste-based vote banks in India.

2. Claudio Ferraz and Frederico Finan examined the variation in the salaries of local legislators across Brazil’s municipal governments (based on population thresholds) and find evidence to support the claim that "higher wages increases political competition and improves the quality of legislators, as measured by education, type of previous profession, and political experience in office".

But their studies do not shed light on whether this increase in performance is due to the positive selection or the incentive effects of higher wage and whether it ultimately translates into improvements in voters’ welfare. Given the massive data set available from Indian electoral politics, it would interesting if some study could explore the effect of higher monetary incentives on development outcomes.

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