Do Criminal Representatives Hinder or Improve Constituency Outcomes? Evidence from India

Research Seminars
Academic Areas Economics and Public Policy
Nishith Prakash, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Connecticut
July 18, 2014 | 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM | Friday
AC 2 Mini Lecture Theater, Hyderabad, India
Open to Public
The recent increase in the number of criminally accused politicians elected to state assemblies in India has caused much furor. Despite the potentially important consequences and the widely divergent views, the implications of their elections on constituency-level economic performance are unknown. Using a regression discontinuity design and data on the intensity of night lights in satellite imagery of the constituencies, our results suggest that the cost is quite high. Using Henderson et al.'s (2012) estimated elasticity of income to light, we find that the election of criminally accused candidates lead to 4.5 percent lower GDP growth per year on average. This finding is robust to different thresholds of criminal accusations. We also find evidence suggesting that the cost of electing such politicians is not equally felt within constituencies.