Decentralization and Information: Empirical Evidence from Ethiopia

Daniel Roggers (World Bank Development Economics Research Group)

December 7, 2017, 11:00–12:30


Room MF 323

Development, Labor and Public Policy Seminar


A common assertion is that decentralized agents such as local government organizations have better information than their centralized counterparts. We test this assertion by measuring the beliefs of public officials regarding the characteristics of the citizens they serve at the federal, regional and local levels of government in Ethiopia. By benchmarking these claims against validated administrative and survey data we show that local government officials make significantly lower errors in their estimates of citizen characteristics than other public officials. We are also able to show that there is no statistically significant difference between the errors made by managers and non-managers, implying that principals are no less informed than their agents. We investigate the determinants of these more accurate beliefs both non-experimentally and experimentally and provide evidence that distinct management practices rather than proximity to citizens underlies the more accurate beliefs we measure at the decentralized tiers of government.