Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity


Voter Rationality and Politician Incentives: Exploiting Luck in Indian and Pakistani Elections

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Madiha Afzal
Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University

Wednesday, February 13, 2008
(Please bring your lunch--drinks provided)

Center for Global Development
1800 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Third Floor, Washington, DC

Register Online

: Recent empirical work on US elections argues that the observed relationship between exogenous shocks and electoral outcomes is evidence of voter irrationality. In contrast, I develop a theoretical framework which highlights how politician behavior, in the form of effort and corruption, can respond to exogenous shocks such as rainfall in South Asia. Rain can affect voters' aggregate income and change an opportunistic politician's incentives to steal from them and be corrupt. Alternatively, rainfall can affect production on a politician-landowner's own farm, and therefore change his incentives to put in farm labor versus political effort. The model shows that politicians behave better (in terms of higher effort and lower corruption) with good rainfall when there is an incumbency advantage, and behave worse with good rainfall when there is an incumbency disadvantage. Using data from both Indian and Pakistani parliamentary elections, I show that rainfall is significantly positively related to politician re-election in times of incumbency advantage and negatively related to re-election in times of incumbency disadvantage. These results are consistent with a rational voter response to changes in politician behavior. Evidence using development fund spending and politician occupations suggests that politician behavior works via the effort mechanism.

Download Voter Rationality and Politician Incentives (pdf, 226K)