The Effect of Holding Office on the Behavior of Politicians
37 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2013 Last revised: 11 Apr 2013
Date Written: April 8, 2013
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
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