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Insiders and Outsiders: Local Ethnic Politics and Public Goods Provision

Kaivan Munshi, Mark Rosenzweig

NBER Working Paper No. 21720
Issued in November 2015
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Political Economy

We examine the role of ethnic politics at the local level in supplying public goods within a framework that incorporates two sides to ethnic groups: an inclusionary side associated with internal cooperation and an exclusionary side associated with the disregard for others. The inclusionary aspect of ethnic politics results in the selection of more able political representatives who exert more effort, resulting in an increased supply of non-excludable public goods. The exclusionary aspect of ethnic politics results in the capture of targetable public resources by insiders; i.e. the representative's own group, at the expense of outsiders. Using newly available Indian data, covering all the major states over three election terms at the most local (ward) level, we provide empirical evidence that is consistent with both sides of ethnic politics. Counterfactual simulations using structural estimates of the model are used to quantify the impact of alternative policies that, based on our theory and the empirical results, are expected to increase the supply of public goods.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21720

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