Skill Versus Voice in Local Development

39 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2018

See all articles by Katherine Casey

Katherine Casey

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Rachel Glennerster

Government of the United Kingdom - Department for International Development (DFID)

Edward Miguel

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Maarten Voors

Wageningen UR

Date Written: September 2018

Abstract

Where the state is weak, traditional authorities often control the local provision of land, justice, and public goods. These authorities are criticized for ruling in an undemocratic and unaccountable fashion, and are typically quite old and poorly educated relative to younger cohorts who have benefited from recent schooling expansions. We experimentally evaluate two solutions to these problems in rural Sierra Leone: an expensive long-term intervention to make local institutions more inclusive; and a low-cost test to rapidly identify skilled technocrats and delegate project management to them. In a real-world competition for local infrastructure grants, we find that technocratic selection dominates both the status quo of chiefly control and the institutional reform intervention, leading to an average gain of one standard deviation unit in competition outcomes. The results uncover a broader failure of traditional autocratic institutions to fully exploit the human capital present in their communities. We compare these findings to the prior beliefs of experts on likely impacts, and discuss implications for competing views on the sustainability of foreign aid.

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Suggested Citation

Casey, Katherine and Glennerster, Rachel and Miguel, Edward and Voors, Maarten, Skill Versus Voice in Local Development (September 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w25022. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3250539

Katherine Casey (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Rachel Glennerster

Government of the United Kingdom - Department for International Development (DFID) ( email )

1 Palace Street
Warwick CV34 4RA
United Kingdom

Edward Miguel

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

549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Maarten Voors

Wageningen UR ( email )

Hollandseweg 1
Wageningen, 6706KN
Netherlands

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