Experiments Workshop - Ben Pasquale, New York University
How Quotas Engender Mistrust in Village Leaders: Natural and Behavioral Experiments in India
Does guaranteed representation for disadvantaged ethnic communities build or diminish inter-ethnic cooperation and trust? I combine a natural experiment that isolates an ethnic quota for local government chair-positions in Jharkhand, India with novel behavioral measures of inter-ethnic cooperation and trust in an elected leader. This behavioral approach is designed to mimic typical interactions between villagers and the elected elites upon whom they rely in order to access the goods and services of the Indian state. Villagers contribute 12% less to a public good when they anticipate capture by their locally elected chair. In areas where the elected chair must be chosen from a specific ethnic category, those who do not share that ethnic category reduce their contributions by 22%. Previous research has found that quotas empower targeted groups by ‘leveling the playing field.’ By contrast, I find quotas decrease trust in newly elected officials and make collective action to provide local public goods more difficult. I reinforce the lab-in-the-field approach with complementary survey evidence which shows that quotas worsen the provision of state-directed local public goods for those villagers who do not share an ethnic identity with the village chair.