MacMillan-CSAP Workshop on Quantitative Research Methods: Nishith Prakash, “Do Criminally Accused Politicians Affect Economic Outcomes? Evidence from India”

Event time: 
Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 4:00pm through 5:15pm
Event description: 

“Do Criminally Accused Politicians Affect Economic Outcomes?  Evidence from India”

Speaker: Nishith Prakash, Assistant Professor of Economics, UCONN Department of Economics & Human Rights Institute

Abstract: The recent increase in the number of criminally accused politicians elected to state assemblies has caused much furor in India. Despite the potentially important consequences and the widely divergent views, the implications of their elections to state legislative assemblies on constituency-level economic performance are unknown. Using a regression discontinuity design and measure of economic activity as proxied by the data on the intensity of night lights in satellite imagery at the constituency level, we answer two important questions. First, what are the economic costs of electing criminally accused politicians in India? Second, do these economic costs vary by the type of accusations? Our results suggest that there are large negative economic costs of electing criminally accused politicians to state assemblies in India. We find strong evidence that the type of accusation matters, especially, the negative costs are largely driven by financial and serious charges. We further find that the negative costs are driven by states with historically weak institutions and high corruption. Using estimates of the elasticity of GDP to light, we find that the election of criminally accused candidates lead to 5.61% to 5.86% lower GDP on a base of 6% per year on average. Our result survives variety of robustness checks.

Nishith Prakash joined the University of Connecticut in Spring 2012 after completing his doctorate at the University of Houston, Texas and working as a post-doctoral research associate at Cornell University from July 2010 till December 2011. He previously held visiting Assistant Professor Positions at Ohio University and Dartmouth College. His primary research interests include development, labor, public policy, and program evaluation. One line of his work focuses on understanding the effects of affirmative action policies in India on labor market outcomes, child labor and poverty. His other work has examined topics such as the returns to English-language skills, effects of crime on economic growth, effect of politician quality on economic outcomes in India, and evaluation of welfare and behavioral impacts of Index Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) in Kenya. Professor Prakash’s research uses experimental and quasi-experimental econometric techniques to obtain estimates with causal interpretations. He has experience conducting surveys in developing countries and working with large scale observational and administrative data sets. Professor Prakash’s research has been covered in The Economist, World Bank Development Impact Blog, The Atlantic, The Hindu, The Times of India, and other national and international newspaper.

He is also a Research Fellow at Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) based at University College London, The Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn, and Member of Insights on Immigration and Development (INSIDE-SPAIN).

Professor Prakash maintains a blog about his research and teaching interests at:

This workshop series is being sponsored by the ISPS Center for the Study of American Politics and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale with support from the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund.

For more information, visit, or contact Kassandra Birchler.

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