Research

Working Papers 

"No Representation Without Information: Politician Responsiveness to Citizen Preferences" (Job Market Paper) 

Abstract: Information asymmetries plague many markets. Studies on the role of information in political accountability usually ask whether citizens know enough about politicians. In this paper, I ask instead whether politicians know enough about citizens to adequately represent them. Using original politician and citizen surveys in Pakistan, I show that politicians hold highly inaccurate beliefs about citizen preferences. In collaboration with a large political party, I conduct a field experiment with 653 politicians to understand how politicians respond when they receive information on citizen preferences. I find that politicians who receive information make recommendations to their party leadership that are closer to what citizens prefer.  Directly elected politicians are more responsive than indirectly elected ones. Politicians are more responsive to information about women's preferences compared to men's preferences. I interpret my results using a simple model of belief updating and responsiveness. The model suggests that higher responsiveness to women's preferences should be expected if politicians are less confident in their prior beliefs about women, for which I find evidence in the data. This paper shows that politicians' inaccurate beliefs constrain accountability and public good provision in developing democracies. My results point to the need for better channels for the flow of information from citizens to politicians—channels that include those who are currently underrepresented.

Canvassing the Gatekeepers: A Field Experiment to Increase Women’s Electoral Turnout in Pakistan with Ali Cheema, Sarah Khan and Shandana Khan-Mohmand

Abstract: Women participate in politics at lower rates than men in many developing countries. Do constraints on women's participation lie with women themselves, or with the men in their households who act as gatekeepers? We conduct a field experiment in Lahore, Pakistan to test how canvassing aimed at increasing women's turnout should be targeted within the household. We randomly assign 2500 households to one of four conditions: no canvassing visit, a visit targeted at men, a visit targeted at women, or both. All visits are primarily aimed at increasing women's turnout. We find large increases in women's turnout when the visit targets only men or both men and women. Targeting women alone is insufficient to improve their turnout. Using a costly behavioral measure of support for women's role in democracy, we find that treating men increases their support for women's role in democracy two months after the election. Households where both men and women were treated saw greater political discussion among men and women, and men in these household were more likely to provide women logistical support to vote. The results suggest that engaging men is necessary to reduce gender gaps in political participation in a context where women do not enjoy full decision-making power over their own participation.

Political Connections & Vote Choice: Evidence from Pakistan first-authored with Michael Callen, Ali Cheema, Adnan Khan, Farooq Naseer & Jacob Shapiro

Abstract: Do voters care about how connected their candidates are? We investigate this question in the 2015 local government elections in Pakistan combining: (i) data on ties between candidates, higher level politicians, and bureaucrats; (ii) a large-scale field experiment; and (iii) election outcomes. Before the election, voters considered local candidates' connections important and expected local politicians to help them access services provided by other levels of government. Providing voters information on connections increased support for more connected candidates, but information on past party performance did not. More connected candidates received more votes and were more likely to win office, but there was no electoral benefit to past service provision. The results provide novel evidence of the importance of political connections for electoral outcomes and show that forward-looking expectations based on candidate characteristics and an understanding of higher-level political process play an important role in vote choice.

Papers in Preparation

(Data collection & analysis complete; preliminary drafts available)

Overseeing the Machine: Monitoring the Effort of Political Party Workers

Abstract: Can monitoring by political parties induce their workers to expend greater effort in electoral campaigns? I answer this question through a field experiment in collaboration with a major political party in Pakistan, a context where the costs of mobilizing men are lower than the costs of mobilizing female voters. Monitoring the overall effort of political workers increases contact with male voters, but does not affect contact with female voters. Monitoring the effort of political workers on male voters alone does not increase contact with male voters, but decreases contact with female voters. These results shed light on principal-agent relationships within political parties and norms against the involvement of women in politics.

Prevision versus Proximity: Experimental Evidence on Bureaucrats’ Decision Making with Michael Callen, Adnan Khan and Asim Khwaja.

Abstract: Bureaucrats take decisions with enormous welfare consequences in developing countries. Researchers present evidence to bureaucrats aiming to convince them to use this evidence in policy-making. Using a lab-in-the-field experiment with 746 civil servants in Pakistan, we show that key assumptions underlying this process are unwarranted. In particular, two key features of policy research are not aligned with how policy-makers respond to evidence. The first feature is that researchers produce large-N evidence. We find that policy-makers update their beliefs substantially when presented with small-N evidence, but large-N evidence only shifts their beliefs marginally more than small-N evidence does. This result casts doubt on the ability of large-N research to convince policy-makers. The second feature is that research is conducted with high internal validity in some areas and it is expected that policy-makers in ‘similar’ areas will use it to make policies in their own areas. Experimental results show that policy-makers update more when given small-N evidence from their area compared to large-N evidence from other areas. This implies that to convince policy-makers, researchers should supplement large-N research with small-N research in the local area.

Book Chapter 

Liaqat, Asad, Ali Cheema & Shandana K. Mohmand. Forthcoming. “Who do Politicians Talk to? Political Contact in Urban Punjabin Pakistan’s Political Parties: Against All Odds. Georgetown University Press (Forthcoming, 2020)

Ongoing Research Projects 

(Funding raised; design & field implementation ongoing)

What motivates women to run for office? with Ali Cheema, Sarah Khan & Shandana Khan Mohmand

Government Responsiveness to Women’s Collective Action with Ali Cheema, Sarah Khan & Shandana Khan Mohmand

Inequality, Trust & Governance” with Ali Cheema