NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Johanna Rickne

The Swedish Institute for
Social Research (SOFI)
Stockholm University

E-Mail: johanna.rickne@sofi.su.se

NBER Working Papers and Publications

February 2017Who Becomes a Politician?
with Ernesto Dal Bó, Frederico Finan, Olle Folke, Torsten Persson: w23120
Can a democracy attract competent leaders, while attaining broad representation? Economic models suggest that free-riding incentives and lower opportunity costs give the less competent a comparative advantage at entering political life. Moreover, if elites have more human capital, selecting on competence may lead to uneven representation. This paper examines patterns of political selection among the universe of municipal politicians and national legislators in Sweden, using extraordinarily rich data on competence traits and social background for the entire population. We document four new facts that together characterize an “inclusive meritocracy.” First, politicians are on average significantly smarter and better leaders than the population they represent. Second, this positive selection...
 
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