India and country-based studies

India seems to be a good testing ground for all kinds of things–which is a bit surprising since one would expect poor data availability in that country. You can also tell that Indian economists are the ones pushing this agenda (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Bottomline: We should be able to do similar things based on Mexican data and advertise/sell them as successfully as these Indian studies do (a quick JSTOR search for “India” in title will show what I mean).

“Political Selection and the Quality of Government: Evidence from South India”
TIMOTHY J. BESLEY, London School of Economics & Political Science
ROHINI PANDE, Yale University

This paper uses household data from India to examine the
economic and social status of village politicians, and how individual and
village characteristics affect politician behavior while in office.

Education increases the chances of selection to public office and reduces
the odds that a politician
uses political power opportunistically. In contrast, land ownership and
political connections enable selection but do not affect politician opportunism.

At the village level, changes in the identity of the politically dominant
group alters the group allocation of resources but not politician opportunism.
Improved information flows in the village, however, reduce opportunism and
improve resource

JEL Classification: O12, H11, H42, O20

ESTHER DUFLO, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
ROHINI PANDE, Yale University

The construction of large dams is one of the most costly and controversial forms of public infrastructure investment in developing countries, but little is known about their impact. This paper studies the productivity and distributional effects of large dams in India. To account for endogenous placement of dams we use GIS data and the fact that river gradient affects a district’s suitability for dams to provide instrumental variable estimates of their impact.

We find that, in a district where a dam is built, agricultural production does not increase but poverty does. In contrast, districts located downstream from the dam benefit from increased irrigation and see agricultural production increase and poverty fall. Overall, our estimates suggest that large dam construction in India is a marginally cost-effective investment with significant distributional implications, and has, in aggregate, increased poverty.

JEL Classification: O21, O12, H43, H23