The design of the field experiment is as follows. Before a scheduled election, call for applications will be sent out to citizens who are contemplating on running for an elective office. The call for application is for an all-expense-paid workshop that would equip participants with knowledge and leadership skills useful in campaigning and in policymaking. There will be limited slots and so interested participants will be informed that selection is not guaranteed but that everybody will have an equal chance of being selected.
There will be a pre-workshop session in which selected applicants will be asked to take a baseline survey and undergo a series of tests. The tests, in particular, will measure "quality" such as aptitude (measured by a test of memory for digit span), personality trait (measured by Big Five Inventory), motivational profile (measured by Perry's 1996 scale of Public Service Motivation), and aspiration (measured by Kasser and Ryan's 1993 aspiration index). Additionally, I will measure the ratio of the
length of the index and ring fingers (also called the "digit ratio") as proxy for biologically determined factors of altruism and prosocial behavior.
After the pre-workshop session, respondents will then be randomly assigned into three experimental groups: a Control Group (A), a Workshop with Conditional Incentive Treatment Group (B), and a Workshop with Unconditional Incentive Treatment Group (C). Participants in the Control Group (A) will not be invited to the workshop and will not receive any further intervention. They will act as the counterfactual, the "business-as-usual" group.
Those assigned to the treatment groups B and C, on the other hand, will be invited to attend a workshop. However, none of them will be informed of any incentives at the time of the invitation, to prevent differential take-up across these two treatment arms. In the workshop, participants will attend different sessions in which their output and performance will be monitored and scored. If the screening theory is correct, then "high quality" participants (e.g. those who have high aptitude, are more altruistic, or have high public service motivation, etc.) should be delivering quality outputs and performing better than their counterparts.
If a participant is assigned in Treatment Group B (workshop with conditional incentive), then he/she will receive an incentive at the end of the workshop only if he/she makes the predetermined cutoff score. On the other hand, if he/she is assigned in Treatment Group C (workshop with unconditional incentive), then he/she will receive an incentive regardless of his/her score.
The incentive is a certificate of merit to be awarded during the closing ceremony of the workshop, and, should the incentive recipients decide to subsequently run for an elective office, the sponsoring partner organization shall donate 5 pieces of campaign posters to them. In other words, the incentive is designed to lower the cost of campaigning and to increase the psychic benefit of running for office.
I am interested in measuring the effect of the treatments on the composition of those who choose to stand for office. If the screening theory is correct, I only expect treatment group B to work in selectively nudging high quality citizens to run for office, where quality is measured by their baseline characteristics (i.e. memory for digit span, public sector motivation, digit ratio, aspiration, and personality). Because the incentive in treatment group B is only given conditional on making the workshop performance scores cutoff, and because ‘high quality’ respondents are more likely to make the cutoff (given that effort is less costly to them), then the mechanism works to selectively incentivize high quality citizens to run for office. In effect, this causes a higher proportion of high quality citizens running for office in this group relative to the other experimental groups, A and C.
Practical Considerations: A foremost practical concern of my research project is how to identify the population of interest – these aspiring political candidates. It is virtually impossible to find a group of political amateurs who would be willing to participate in a large-N experimental study in which some of them are randomly
assigned into being exposed to a workshop described above. I look to a particular and germane political setting to implement this proposed field experiment my
country, the Philippines. The Philippines is by far the only country in the world that popularly elects youth representatives to its smallest political unit—the barangay (village). Each of the 42,000+ barangays in the country is mandated by law (under the Local Government Code of 1991) to establish a Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), a governing body comprised of youth aged 15 to 17 years old. Crucially for my proposed research project, the SK is a low-stakes public office (both in terms of
remuneration and in scope of responsibilities) and it often serves as a jump-off point for a political career for aspiring politicians. Therefore, their group offers an apt opportunity to implement my proposed policy intervention.