Are Educated Leaders Good for Education? Evidence from India

57 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2016 Last revised: 19 Aug 2019

See all articles by Rahul Lahoti

Rahul Lahoti

University of Goettingen (Gottingen); Azim Premji University

Soham Sahoo

Indian Institute of Management Bangalore

Date Written: August 19, 2019


Formal education is often viewed as a proxy for the quality of leaders. Recently, candidates with low education levels have been disqualified from contesting local elections in some states in India. But there is no conclusive evidence linking education to the effectiveness of leaders. Against this backdrop, we investigate whether having educated political leaders in the state legislatures in India improves education outcomes. Using comprehensive data on various outcomes such as learning levels, enrollment, school funding and infrastructure, we find that the effectiveness of educated leaders depends on the initial level of development of the state. Educated leaders yield better education outcomes for their constituents only in those states where the initial level of development is high. There is no impact of educated leaders in less-developed states or in the overall sample. Our identification strategy is based on an instrumental variable that exploits the quasi-experimental election outcomes of close elections between educated and less-educated politicians. The results are consistent throughout various robustness analyses. These findings have implications for recent policy changes mandating minimum education requirements on candidates in two states and similar proposed changes in other states.

Keywords: Education; Learning Outcomes; Political Economy; Leaders; Close Elections; India

JEL Classification: D72; H11; H75; I25

Suggested Citation

Lahoti, Rahul and Sahoo, Soham, Are Educated Leaders Good for Education? Evidence from India (August 19, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Rahul Lahoti (Contact Author)

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) ( email )

Platz der Gottinger Sieben 3
Gottingen, D-37073

Azim Premji University ( email )

PESIT South campus
Electronic City phase-I
Bangalore, 560100

Soham Sahoo

Indian Institute of Management Bangalore ( email )

Bannerghatta Main Road, Bilekahalli
Bengaluru, Karnatak 560076

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