Research Workshop on Political Economy (Gov 3007)


Monday, November 21, 2016, 12:00pm to 2:00pm


CGIS Knafel K354

Co-taught by Professors Kenneth Shepsle and Jeffry Frieden, the Research Workshop in Political Economy (Government 3007) is a year-long graduate seminar that aims to encourage cross-disciplinary research and excellence in graduate training. Political economy is a research tradition that explores how institutions affect political and economic outcomes. The workshop emphasizes the development of dissertation proposals and is a place where graduate students can present their research to an audience of committed and informed peers. It is open to graduate students in the Departments of Government and Economics, and the Program in Political Economy and Government. The workshop holds both internal and public seminars and meetings. At the internal meetings, approximately twelve per semester, graduate students and faculty present their own work to one another. At the public meetings, up to two per semester, leading scholars are invited to Harvard to present their work. Although the workshop is by invitation only, affiliates of the Weatherhead Center are encouraged to attend the public meetings.




Edoardo Teso will present his paper “Local politics and the (mis)allocation of public sector jobs”. Soeren Henn will be the discussant.

Jonathan Weigel will lead a brainstorming session titled “Building State and Citizen: A Property Tax RCT in the D.R. Congo”. Juan Galan will be the discussant.


Abstract for “Local politics and the (mis)allocation of public sector jobs'”

Selecting competent public sector employees is crucial for government effectiveness. Politicians can use public sector jobs to reward political supporters, with potentially adverse effects on the quality of the pool of public sector workers. This paper investigates the effect of patronage on the selection of public sector workers in the context of Brazilian local politics. Relying on multiple administrative data sources, we construct a novel dataset of more than 800,000 candidates (both successful and unsuccessful) for municipal councils’ seats, following their career in both the public and private sector, as well as in the political arena. We use a regression discontinuity design that leverages very competitive elections to causally identify the effect of candidates’ alignment to the successful mayoral candidate on their careers and returns in the public sector. We show that having supported the party in power in the municipality is associated with a sizable “public sector premium”, with an average 40% increase in the probability of holding a public sector job. The effect is concentrated among the candidates who failed to be elected to the local council. We provide several pieces of evidence consistent with a within-party insurance mechanism, where patronage is used to reward candidates for their electoral efforts in the negative state in which they fail to be elected. Finally, we provide evidence consistent with the fact that patronage leads to the selection of less qualified public sector workers.


Abstract for “Building State and Citizen: A Property Tax RCT in the D.R. Congo'”

This project is a randomized evaluation of a novel property tax campaign led by the Provincial Government in Kananga, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The primary intervention randomly assigns certain neighborhoods to receive the door-to-door tax collection program, aided by tablet computers and handheld thermal receipt printers. This study will attempt to measure the impact of the program on citizens' expectations of public good provision and their efforts to hold the government accountable. Specifically, the study will exploit random variation in taxes paid to examine the theorized link between taxation and civic engagement. Because collecting taxes on the ground also creates new opportunities for corruption, two cross-randomized interventions are used to study how to limit bribe taking. First, a collector monitoring (`audit') intervention is randomly assigned among neighborhoods that receive the program. Second, a citizen-level information intervention is randomly assigned among all neighborhoods in the city. The variation created by these interventions will be used to examine heterogeneous effects of state building---that is, how paying taxes and paying bribes compare in their effects on citizen engagement in politics.