x

NEW UPDATE: Completed trials may now upload and register supplementary documents (e.g. null results reports, populated pre-analysis plans, or post-trial results reports) in the Post Trial section under Reports, Papers, & Other Materials.
Public goods, location choice and the voting decisions of the urban poor in Delhi
Last registered on February 11, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Public goods, location choice and the voting decisions of the urban poor in Delhi
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0004975
Initial registration date
February 08, 2020
Last updated
February 11, 2020 1:52 PM EST
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
MIT
PI Affiliation
Yale University
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2010-01-01
End date
2020-01-01
Secondary IDs
USAID Development Innovations Venture (AID-OAA-G-12-00006), National Science Foundation (1063693), 3ie (OW2.099)
Abstract
We separate the incentive, selection and voter activism effects associated with improvements in available information. We conducted a multi-year field experiment in the capital city of Delhi where, working in conjunction with a local NGO, we used the Right to Information Act to obtain detailed information on the performance record of local councilors (each of whom were elected to a five-year term in 2007).

The innovation of this study is the use of an experimental design that allows us to disentangle several effects. First, we isolate the standard incentive effect coming from the fear of being penalized by voters. Second, we identify whether voters became more aggressive in demanding entitlements in response to information about their rights and the performance of their representative. Third, we are able to identify any selection effects by looking at the results of the 2012 elections.

The experiment has several treatments: In July 2010, councilors in Treatment 1 were informed that their individual performance along specific dimensions would be reported to voters in the run-up to the next election (in March 2012). Councilors in Treatment 2 saw their constituents receive report cards on their performance during July 2010 and were informed that another report card would be delivered in early 2012. In a subset of the second group of wards (Treatment 3), we also undertook an active voter mobilization campaign. Finally, councilors in the control sample were informed that the NGO will not produce report cards on their performance until at least 2014. The main effect of Treatment 1 is the standard incentive effect, while there is an additional effect of voters directly putting pressure on politicians throughout the term in Treatment 2, and to an even greater extent in Treatment 3.

Using household surveys and objective measures of service delivery, we examine whether the interventions alter councilor behavior and service delivery. We also track whether parties replace their worst performing incumbents in the 2012 elections and whether there are any adverse responses when politicians do not wish to change their behavior (e.g. vote-buying, intimidation).
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Banerjee, Abhijit, Nils Enevoldsen and Rohini Pande. 2020. "Public goods, location choice and the voting decisions of the urban poor in Delhi." AEA RCT Registry. February 11. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.4975-1.0.
Sponsors & Partners

There are documents in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access to this information.

Request Information
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
The experiment has several treatments: In July 2010, councilors in Treatment 1 were informed that their individual performance along specific dimensions would be reported to voters in the run-up to the next election (in March 2012). Councilors in Treatment 2 saw their constituents receive report cards on their performance during July 2010 and were informed that another report card would be delivered in early 2012. In a subset of the second group of wards (Treatment 3), we also undertook an active voter mobilization campaign. Finally, councilors in the control sample were informed that the NGO will not produce report cards on their performance until at least 2014. The main effect of Treatment 1 is the standard incentive effect, while there is an additional effect of voters directly putting pressure on politicians throughout the term in Treatment 2, and to an even greater extent in Treatment 3.
Intervention Start Date
2010-05-01
Intervention End Date
2012-03-01
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Subjective Measures of Performance and Voter Behavior
Objective measures of Performance
Electoral outcomes
Party and candidate outcomes
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Subjective Measures of Performance and Voter Behavior: Voters’ perceptions of the quality of public services as well as legislator ability and performance

Objective measures of Performance: Councilor committee attendance and discretionary spending; state of the infrastructure and general cleanliness of public toilet facilities

Electoral outcomes: Turnout and candidate vote share

Party and candidate outcomes: Party choice of candidates, and the candidates’ characteristics, including assets, education, and criminal record
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Together with our local NGO partner, we constructed report cards on incumbent councilor performance during the fiscal year. The report cards report how the councilor allocated his discretionary funds across broad development categories (water, sanitation, etc.), his committee attendance records, and his performance in public meetings and committees. Those reading the report cards might conclude that their councilor is performing poorly if all of the funds allocated to their ward are not used, the councilor skips a large proportion of public meetings and committee assignments, or the councilor does not participate in the meetings attended. Voters may also chose to remove councilors if they deem spending as primarily on frivolous categories (e.g. fountains). Furthermore, if the official expenditures are out of sync with the voters’ experience of the public works in a ward, voters might conclude that the councilor is siphoning off or misallocating funds.

Our intervention covers 257 wards, randomly assigned to one of four categories. The control sample of 53 wards receives no additional information about councilor performance. These councilors are informed that the NGO will not produce report cards on them until at least 2014. We contrast outcomes in the control wards with three treatment samples. Ward councilors in Treatment 1 are informed in May 2010 that report cards on their performance will be disseminated via a leading Indian newspaper in the run-up to the election in 2012. They are told which performance indicators will feature in the report card. This treatment examines the pure incentive effect – do councilors improve their performance when they anticipate future (pre-election) improvements in voter information?

In the remaining treatment wards, report cards are published in a newspaper in June 2010, and councillors are informed that these will again be published in the run-up to the elections in February 2012. Here, we examine whether politician responsiveness is magnified when voters receive information early. In all cases, councilors are informed in 2010 about the performance indicators that will feature in the report card in 2012.

These wards are randomized into two further treatment samples. For Treatment 2 wards, report cards are published in the newspaper but no further action is taken. One concern with simply giving information is whether voters who are not used to getting information will take note of it. Thus in Treatment 3 wards, we combine the information with an active mobilization campaign, as Bjorkman and Svensson (2009) have shown that community mobilization can be an effective accountability tool. To do so, we identify the slums in each Treatment 3 ward and randomly select half of them for a voter mobilization campaign. In July and August 2010, local civic society organizations conduct door-to-door visits and public meetings in these areas in order to provide voters with newspaper report cards and also educate them about the roles and responsibilities of the ward councilor’s office. From November 2010 until November 2011, there is a continued mobilization that encourages slum dwellers to use this information and to approach sitting councilors with any inquiries or complaints.

Finally, we undertake a within-ward randomization among wards in Treatment 1 in February 2012. Specifically, when the final report cards are published we undertake an intensive door-to-door newspaper delivery in a random sample of polling stations within Treatment 1 wards (following the method in Banerjee et al. (2009)). Differences in voting outcomes across the two subsamples of Treatment 1 provide a measure of the selection effect.

A baseline survey was conducted in February and March 2010. It covers over five thousand households in 103 slums spread across treatment and control wards. We surveyed voters regarding their beliefs about legislator ability and performance, and also collected data on whether and how councilors respond to slum dwellers’ needs. This survey provides baseline data on councilor performance, access to social services in slum areas, knowledge of the local government system, and political preferences in each area. Also, by linking these data with our endline surveys (see below) we can examine the link between voter beliefs and politician actions. To evaluate the impact of these interventions, we combine these data with several other types of data:

1. Subjective Measures of Performance and Voter Behavior: In December 2011, we carry out a first endline household survey. This will focus on voters’ perceptions of the quality of public services as well as legislator ability and performance. We use these subjective data to determine if the treatments changed perceptions of representatives’ behavior. Since we interview the same households as in the baseline survey, we are able to chart the evolution of voter beliefs in each of the treatment areas. We are also able to examine whether voters believe that politician activism was greater in areas which featured on the report card.

Immediately after the February 2012 elections, we conduct a second endline survey in all wards. This focuses on the voter’s perceptions of the election, focusing on reported voting behavior, vote-buying, intimidation and other aspects of the campaigns. Individual-level voting data lets us examine whether treatment effects differ across demographic groups (e.g. less educated, those receiving benefits from the state, etc.). Changes in caste-based voting are another area of interest, as past studies demonstrate its pervasiveness (Banerjee and Pande, 2009). Finally, data on electoral malpractice help us determine if politicians find these methods less costly than performance improvement, leading to adverse unintended consequences of report card campaigns.

2. Objective measures of Performance: We obtain information on councilor committee attendance and discretionary spending for 2010 and 2011. This allows us to examine whether councilors in treatment wards improve performance along dimensions featured in the report card. In all wards, we commission an audit of the public toilet facilities, recording the state of the infrastructure and general cleanliness. The results of this audit is not featured in the report cards. Rather, we use these data to test whether politicians in treatment groups respond to these campaigns by diverting effort and resources from categories that are not explicitly reported on, i.e. whether public information mainly alters legislator behavior by “teaching to the test.”

3. Electoral outcomes: Outcomes are collected at the ward level, which will include turnout and candidate vote share.

4. Party and candidate outcomes: Outcomes are collected at the ward level, which include party choice of candidates, and the candidates’ characteristics, including assets, education, and criminal record (obtained from affidavits filed by candidates).

Randomization of treatment status implies that the empirical design is straightforward. We examine the differential effect of incentives and activism on politician performance outcome Y_w (for the time period July 2010 and February 2012) in ward w via

Y_w = α_1*T_1 + α_2*T_2 + α_3*T_3 + ε_w

Where T_1 to T_3 refer to the three different treatment arms. α_1 captures the pure incentive effect of information. The difference between α_1 and α_2 captures the additional effect of informing voters early on while the difference between α_3 and α_2 tells us whether activism magnifies the politician response.

For the selection effect, we use polling station s data on incumbent vote-share. Here, we also make use of the within-ward randomization in treatment 3. The regression of interest is

Y_sw = β_11*T_11 + β_12*T_12 + β_2*T_2 + β_3*T_3 + ε_s

T_11 is the treatment arm where report cards are published in 2012 but no distribution occurs. T_12 is the subsample of polling stations (within Treatment 1) where voters are provided free copies of the newspaper. The difference between β_32 and β_33 is a measure of the selection effect.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Wards randomly assigned to categories by a Stata program
Randomization Unit
Wards of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
27 party-zone clusters (political party in control of ward (3: BJP/INC/other) by geographic zone of ward (9))
Sample size: planned number of observations
Original: 257 councilors/wards Revised: 240 councilors/wards
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Original:
53 wards control
204 wards treatment (arms unspecified)

Revised:
72 wards control
58 wards no midterm report, no mobilization campaign
56 wards midterm report, no mobilization campaign
54 wards midterm report, mobilization campaign
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects (MIT)
IRB Approval Date
2009-12-23
IRB Approval Number
0911003550
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS