Information as an Incentive: Experimental Evidence from Delhi

Rohini Pande (Harvard University)

December 7, 2018, 11:30–12:30


Room MF 323

IAST General Seminar


Do anticipated performance disclosures influence politician behavior and, in turn, party and voter behavior? Two years prior to Delhi's 2012 municipal elections, we informed a random sample of councilors that a leading daily newspaper would report on their performance just before elections. To enhance our credibility, that newspaper immediately reported on the performance of a sub-sample of those councilors. To check whether improved information directly influences councilor performance, we implemented a cross-cutting experiment wherein treated councilors received ``for your eyes only'' audit reports on the condition of toilets and garbage dumps in slums present in their wards. A final source of variation arises from the unanticipated expansion of the gender quota four months before the elections -- the fraction of councilor positions reserved for women was raised from 33% to 50%. We have four findings. First, in high-slum-density wards disclosures caused councilors to move spending closer to slum-dweller preferences. Second, the public nature of disclosures matter: the ``for your eyes only'' audit report card intervention led to a limited and, arguably, perverse effect wherein the incidence of closed toilets rose in treatment wards. Third, newspaper disclosures influenced party ticket allocation. Specifically, treated incumbents who undertook more pro-poor spending but were unable to re-contest from own ward due to gender quotas were more likely to receive a party ticket for a different ward. Fourth, councilors who were subject to anticipated performance disclosures benefited electorally in the 2012 elections.