“Accountability and the Allocation of Bureaucratic Skill: Evidence from India” (Job Market Paper)
Does increased government transparency make bureaucracies more meritocratic? I study the impact of politician disclosure requirements on the assignment of bureaucrats to public posts. I collect detailed information on bureaucrats’ qualifications and construct a novel measure of bureaucratic mismatch—an index measuring the extent to which a bureaucrat is under- or overqualified to perform a specific task. Using the staggered implementation of Indian state elections for identification, I find that information disclosure is associated with a mismatch reduction of 2.5 percent of a standard deviation. This effect is substantially larger (15–45 percent of a standard deviation) in posts that are more important for policy implementation and for tasks that bureaucrats perceive to be more prestigious. In addition, I find that information disclosure increases returns to bureaucrat skill. Bureaucrats with greater skill are more likely to reach prestigious positions in more transparent states. Taken together, the results show that government transparency promotes meritocracy within public organizations.
Political distortions are prevalent in many developing countries and can imply substantial productivity losses. Theory is ambiguous as to whether openness to trade amplifies or reduces the effects of such distortions. This paper shows that trade liberalization in India decreased the value of firms' political connections, suggesting a reduction in political distortions. First, using variation in firms' connections stemming from political turnover, we identify that political connections increase firms' performance by 10–20%. Second, we evaluate how the value of political connections changes after India's externally imposed tariff reductions, using a triple-difference and difference-in-discontinuities design. We find that political connections become substantially less valuable when tariffs on input goods are reduced. Our findings imply that access to international markets reduces firms' dependence on political connections to source input goods, thus reducing the distortionary effect of such connections. The effects are stronger in more corrupt states, where baseline political distortions are expected to be higher. Our results suggest a new margin for gains from trade in the presence of political distortions, through a direct effect of trade liberalization on the prevalence of such distortions.
Work in Progress
“Corruption and Social Unrest”
“Public Servants in Private Firms”
“The experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”, with Peter Fredriksson, Eva Mörk, Torsten Persson and Jakob Svensson
Poverty in Contemporary Economic Thought (Eds. Mats Lundahl, Daniel Rauhut and Neelambar Hatti). London and New York: Routledge (forthcoming)
Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA), 2017
Popular summary Dagens Nyheter – September 23, 2016 [In Swedish]
Featured in: Expressen, Forsknings & Framsteg, Göteborgs-Posten, Hallandsposten, Helsingborgs Dagblad, Jämtlands Tidning, Kristianstadsbladet, Nya Wermlands-Tidningen, Svenska Dagbladet, Sydsvenskan
“Korruptionens utveckling under finanskrisen” [In Swedish]
Ekonomisk Debatt 44(7), 2016