Kunal Sen on politicians and their promises in an uncertain world
On 15 August UNU-WIDER Director Kunal Sen will present his work on 'Politicians and their promises in an uncertain world: Evidence from a lab-in-the-field experiment in India'
In emerging economies, pro-social policy outcomes may be prevented by bureaucratic inefficiency, capture by elected or non-elected office holders or by other hurdles. For local citizens, uncertainty about the true cause of such failures often prevails. We study the pro-sociality of politician decision-making in a modified dictator game with real politician participants in rural India. In our game, a recipient citizen does not know whether dictator politician capture or bad luck is to blame when receiving zero. Using a 2x2 design, we investigate how the combination of two non-monetary instruments affect politician behaviour in this hard to govern environment. The first instrument, a (non-binding) promise, is a commitment device while the second introduces a minimal relational lever between the politician and recipient.
We find that politician dictator giving becomes dramatically more pro-social from zero to 50:50 giving when these two instruments are combined. Our results provide new insights about the scope for norm-based, low-cost mechanisms to tackle governance-related asymmetric information challenges in developing country settings.
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