Elite Identity and Political Accountability: A Tale of Ten Islands

60 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2016

See all articles by Jean-Paul Carvalho

Jean-Paul Carvalho

University of California, Irvine - Department of Economics

Christian Dippel

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Date Written: October 2016

Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between elite identity and political outcomes from a theoretical and empirical perspective. Elite members with distinct economic and social identities vote for or against an extractive policy, which benefits them at the expense of the citizenry. Voting is disciplined by the threat of citizen revolt, with some elite members being more accountable than others. The relationship between elite identity and political accountability is complex and non-monotonic. As their share in the elite grows, accountable elite members are more likely to vote for extractive policies. When the elite becomes too accountable as a whole, elite members may pursue extractive policies by altering the institutional framework. The model is grounded in an empirical exploration of ten British Caribbean sugar colonies where the emancipation of slaves in 1838 created a mixed local and British elite and for which we have unique data on elite composition and voting. Voting behavior depends on an individual's identity and the overall composition of the elite in a manner predicted by the theory. In all but one of the islands elites eventually dissolved their legislative assemblies, ceding their formal powers to the British Crown. Consistent with the theory, we find evidence linking this to rising accountability of the islands' elites.

Suggested Citation

Carvalho, Jean-Paul and Dippel, Christian, Elite Identity and Political Accountability: A Tale of Ten Islands (October 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w22777. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2861709

Jean-Paul Carvalho (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Department of Economics ( email )

3151 Social Science Plaza
Irvine, CA 92697-5100
United States

Christian Dippel

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

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