The Political Economy of Bureaucratic Overload: Evidence from Rural Development Officials in India

46 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2017 Last revised: 16 Jun 2019

See all articles by Aditya Dasgupta

Aditya Dasgupta

University of California, Merced

Devesh Kapur

University of Pennsylvania - Center for the Advanced Study of India; Center for Global Development

Date Written: October 23, 2017

Abstract

Government programs often fail because of poor implementation by local bureaucrats. What explains this chronic weakness of local state capacity? Prominent explanations emphasize rent-seeking by bureaucrats or capture by politicians and special interest groups. This paper documents a different pathology – rooted not in malfeasance but in systemic political failure to invest adequately in local state capacity – that we term bureaucratic overload. Drawing on a nationwide survey of local rural development officials across India, including time-usage diaries which measure their daily behavior, we provide quantitative evidence that: i) resource scarcities force rural development officials to multi-task excessively; ii) the inability to focus on managerial activities harms the implementation of development programs; iii) bureaucratic overload is linked to an absence of electoral incentives for ruling parties to invest in local state capacity. The results provide a micro-level perspective on the political economy and bureaucratic behavior underpinning weak state capacity.

Keywords: Bureaucracy; Political Economy

Suggested Citation

Dasgupta, Aditya and Kapur, Devesh, The Political Economy of Bureaucratic Overload: Evidence from Rural Development Officials in India (October 23, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3057602 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3057602

Aditya Dasgupta (Contact Author)

University of California, Merced ( email )

P.O. Box 2039
Merced, CA 95344
United States

Devesh Kapur

University of Pennsylvania - Center for the Advanced Study of India ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/casi/about/devesh.html

Center for Global Development

2055 L St. NW
5th floor
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
285
Abstract Views
1,560
rank
105,967
PlumX Metrics