Political Inequality

At the heart of any modern understanding of democracy lies the idea that our institutional framework allows all citizens to be political equals. In practice, of course, disparities in political information, or political participation, persist and even thrive in some instances. In this research stream, projects probe into the various dimensions that constitute political inequality. The focus is on measurement of inequalities, as well as the links between the different dimensions.

Developing Kampala's Citizen Charter: Citizen Deliberation and Bureaucratic Responsiveness in Service Provision


The politics of political inequality is poorly understood. There is certainly inequality in who participates in collective decision-making and in who influences collective decisions. However, there is a lack of consensus on how to measure political inequalities, how political inequalities affect wellbeing, and how best to address them. This project takes up these challenges in the context of a unique episode of citizen engagement in city governance in Kampala. We build on a partnership with the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) aimed at developing a “Citizen’s Charter”—a kind of social contract that specifies rights and expectations of citizens with respect to this authority. In the context of this consultative process, our project seeks to: (1) contribute to strengthening the behavioral measurement of inequalities in political influence, (2) assess whether and how participation in setting the rules can flatten inequalities in citizens’ willingness to take action to demand services, and to hold service providers to account, and (3) assess how the formalization of political rights and obligations can flatten these inequalities.

Type:  Field experiment

Activities: (1) 188 small-scale citizen consultative meetings, where we randomize attendance to the meetings, as well as the type of meeting (led by KCCA staff or an outside discussion leader). In this arena, we measure both citizen and discussion leader preferences for Charter design; (2) baseline and endline survey about citizen preferences, political attitudes and behavior, trust, and pro-social inclinations; (3) bureaucratic audits where survey respondents are asked to serve as confederates and submit requests to the public authority.

Researchers:  Constantin Manuel Bosancianu (WZB), Ana Garcia-Hernandez (NOVA SBE and WZB), Macartan Humphreys (WZB and Columbia University).

Timeline:  July 2019 – ongoing.

Funding:  An anonymous foundation; International Growth Centre – Uganda, through the Cities initiative; Columbia University; WZB Berlin Social Science Centre.

Outputs:  Report to KCCA on Charter design to be released soon. Working paper assessing input, throughput, and output inequality in the context of meetings to be released soon.

Partners:  International Growth Centre (IGC) – Uganda; Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA); Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) Uganda.

Media, brief: Promises and Pitfalls of Consultative Processes in Development

Does Political Voice Change Women’s Prosociality?: Evidence from a Lab in the Field Experiment in Uganda


In recent years, policy-makers across the world have implemented policies to increase the presence of underrepresented groups, like women, in decision making bodies. Evidence has shown that this can alter local political outcomes. Yet, studies may confound two mechanisms: a selection effect (the representation of different preferences) and an empowerment effect (the acquisition of political voice changes one’s behavior). To test for these effects, I conduct a modified public goods game over two categories of real community goods in rural Uganda. By exogenously assigning voting power over which good is chosen, I can directly test for the empowerment effect. The results suggest that having political voice in choosing the public good does not increase prosociality on average. Men are not sensitive to changes in political voice. However, women contribute significantly less after experiencing a negative shift in empowerment. The results present new evidence that changes in political influence may directly impact prosociality.

Status:  Data was collected in Spring 2017. Link to working paper in circulation.

Researchers:  Ana Garcia-Hernandez (WZB)

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   Field experiment in Uganda
Ana Garcia-Hernandez
Wheels of Change: The Impact of Bicycles on Girls’ Education and Empowerment Outcomes in Zambia


We study the impact of a program that provides a bicycle to a school-going girl who lives more than 2.5 km from the school. We randomized whether a girl receives a bicycle with a small cost to her family to cover replacement parts, a bicycle where these costs are covered by the program and so is zero cost to the family or a control group. We find that the bicycle reduced average commuting time to school by 35%, decreased absenteeism by 27%, improved math test scores and led to girls expressing higher feelings of control over their lives. We also find evidence that girls who received bicycles with the small cost to her family had higher levels of aspirations, self-image and a desire to delay marriage and pregnancy, possibly due to the girls perceiving the payment from the family as a desire to increase future investment in her. We do not find any impacts on a school dropout and grade transition. Heterogeneity analysis by distance to school shows an inverted u-shape for most of the schooling and empowerment results, suggesting that impacts are greatest for girls that live far, but not too far, from school. This also suggests that empowerment outcomes worked through schooling effects.

Researchers:  Nathan Fiala (UConnecticut), Ana Garcia-Hernandez (WZB), Kritika Narula (Yale), and Nishith Prakash (UConnecticut)

Funding:  WBR and UBS Bank

Status:  Data was collected between August 2017 and December 2018. Administrative data was collected in 2019 and 2020. Working paper available soon.

Link to policy brief

Link to project webpage

Partners:  World Bicycle Relief (WBR) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA)

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Impact of bicycles
World Bicycle Relief
Networks and the Size of the Gender Gap in Politician Performance across Job Duties


The share of women in legislatures has increased dramatically in the past decade. Yet female politicians continue to face barriers that undermine their performance relative to men. We argue that those barriers have different implications across job duties, which can result in performance gender gaps of different magnitudes across duties. In particular, where female politicians are excluded in politician networks, duties requiring interaction with fellow politicians (e.g., legislative activities) may exhibit larger gender gaps as compared to duties (e.g., constituency services) that can be undertaken independently. We find support for this argument when comparing women and men politicians’ performance across 50 subnational Ugandan legislatures (where 1/3 of seats are reserved for women). Using original network data, we find that women are significantly more peripheral in professional networks, and that this network peripherality drives gender gaps in duties requiring more interaction with fellow politicians, but not independently-performed duties.

Researchers:  Ana Garcia-Hernandez (WZB), Guy Grossman (UPenn) and Kristin Michelitch (Vanderbilt)

Status:  Paper under review. Link to working paper in circulation.
 

Changing Gender Norms and Attitudes through Role Models: a Field Experiment in India


Women and girls remain marginalised in many parts of the world, particularly in countries where patriarchal gender norms dominate society. Empowering women through changing gender norms has thus become a prominent endeavour in development practice. An innovative approach consists of the use of counter-stereotypical female role models, often presented in the form of a movie, soap opera or radio show. While previous quasi-experimental studies have documented promising effects of role model interventions on a range of social and economic outcomes, causal evidence to date is sparse. This project aims to experimentally test the viability of a role model intervention within a randomised controlled trial in India - one of the lowest-ranking countries on the Gender Development Index. Specifically, we intend to test the impact of a culturally adapted movie, on the viewer’s internalised gender attitudes and gender stereotypes. Further, we will shed light on two important policy questions, namely whether it is possible to change attitudes and beliefs in both women and men (girls and boys) and whether interventions are more effective if targeted at young children alone or at young children and their parents. This research project will thus generate vital new evidence on how to effectively promote gender equity.

Researchers:  Ana Garcia-Hernandez (WZB) and Janina Isabel Steinert (TUM)

Funding:  WZB

Status:  This project is in the planning phase and the fieldwork is postponed because of COVID.