The Effect of Holding Office on the Behavior of Politicians

37 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2013 Last revised: 11 Apr 2013

See all articles by Daniel P. Enemark

Daniel P. Enemark

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Clark Gibson

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Mathew D. McCubbins

Department of Political Science and Law School, Duke University

Brigitte Seim

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill

Date Written: April 8, 2013

Abstract

The effect that holding office has on the behavior of politicians is a crucial concern in the design of democratic institutions. Unfortunately, the treatment effects of holding elective office are difficult to estimate; they are likely confounded by selection bias arising from citizens self-selecting into politics and voters selecting their representatives. This article reports on a behavioral experiment designed to address this selection bias. We recruited politicians in Zambia who had won or lost elections for District Council by narrow margins. Using a regression-discontinuity design, we show that politicians in our sample who have held office behave differently from those who have not. Specifically, in a specially designed set of Trust and Dictator Games, office-holding politicians seem to display higher levels of reciprocity than do politicians who have not held office. We argue that we can identify this difference as a behavioral effect of the treatment of holding office.

Keywords: Experiments, Regression Discontinuity Designs, Behavioral Games, Institutions, Trust Game, Reciprocity, Africa

Suggested Citation

Enemark, Daniel P. and Gibson, Clark C. and McCubbins, Mathew D. and Seim, Brigitte, The Effect of Holding Office on the Behavior of Politicians (April 8, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2247147 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2247147

Daniel P. Enemark (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Clark C. Gibson

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

Mathew D. McCubbins

Department of Political Science and Law School, Duke University ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Brigitte Seim

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill ( email )

102 Ridge Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
United States

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