Job Market Paper

Complements or Substitutes? How Institutional Arrangements Bind Chiefs and the State in Africa. (Under Review)

Abstract: How does the central state interact with local actors in providing public goods? I study the effect of state capacity on local governance in sub-Saharan Africa, which I argue depends on whether traditional village chiefs are integrated in the country’s constitution. I use distance to administrative headquarters as a measure of state capacity and estimate a regression discontinuity design around administrative boundaries. If chiefs are not integrated then the state and chiefs compete with each other, working as substitutes. That is, a stronger state undermines the power of chiefs. If traditional chiefs are integrated, then the two work as complements. A stronger state then increases the power of chiefs. I show that these relationships are crucial to understand the effect of the capacity of the state on local economic development.

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Working Papers

The Political Economy of Indirect Rule: Armed Groups in Eastern Congo. (with Gauthier Marchais and Raul Sanchez de la Sierra)

Abstract: In the process of state building in new territories, rulers face important trade-offs. They can create their own administration (direct rule) or delegate power to existing political institutions (indirect rule). This choice has important consequences for long-run state building and local political development. Pre-existing empirical work relies on context-dependent country-level episodes which makes it difficult to understand the determinants and consequences of indirect rule. This paper leverages a novel panel data set covering the histories of 456 chiefs and 508 episodes of village governance by armed groups in 106 villages in the DRC. We find that armed groups are more likely to co-opt chiefs when chiefs have more local authority, as measured by their coethnicity. They also rely on indirect rule when the armed group lacks legitimacy among the population, as also measured by their coethnicity. The use of direct rule increases with an armed groups' tenure and the resources of the village. We use survey data and implicit association tests to estimate the effects of indirect rule. We show that indirect rule decreases legitimacy of chiefs. Armed groups, however, increase their legitimacy by delegating power to the chiefs.

On the mechanics of kleptocratic states: Administrators' power, protectors, and taxpayers' false confessions. (with Laura Paler, Wilson Prichard, Cyrus Samii, and Raul Sanchez de la Sierra)

Abstract: Building a successful state requires efficient tax collection. Yet, many developing countries find themselves in a kleptocratic state equilibrium where state administrators take advantage of their positions to extract resources, citizens are reluctant to pay taxes and ultimately the state lacks resources to provide public goods and pay its agents. We provide a model of kleptocratic tax collection where the abusive power of state agents depends on their office, their connections, and superior information. We experimentally change the balance of power between state agents and the population in two ways. First, we organize pro-bono tax consulting. Second, we connect respondents with advocacy resources. To overcome difficulties in measuring taxes and bribes, we develop a smartphone application and train 300 households and businesses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to report all payments weekly. Our results show that empowering citizens can allow them to circumvent the kleptocratic state equilibrium. The tax consulting and protection treatments empower respondents, especially unregistered firms, to engage with the tax collectors. Respondents report paying less bribes and a lengthier negotiation with state agents. Moreover, the treatment induced more interactions with state officials and increased the amount of formal taxes paid. Our findings then suggest that empowerment of citizens may be a promising avenue to move away from a kleptocratic state equilibrium.

Pre Analysis Plan

The Lasting Impact of Colonial Educational Policies in Nigeria: Evidence from a Policy Experiment on Missionary Activity. (with Horacio Larreguy)

Abstract: This paper exploits a policy experiment on missionary educational activity in colonial Nigeria to estimate the lasting impact of colonialism on human capital, and the channels that explain its persistence. Results indicate that the treatment has a positive and large long-run effect on religion conversion, educational outcomes, health provision, consumption of durable goods, housing characteristics and occupation. The lasting impact of the policy experiment is explained by the persistence in the private provision of education which, as a result of the policy, substituted for missing public provision of education. The gap between treated and non treated areas is closing over time due to the reversion of the lack of public provision of education.

You Get What You Pay For? Can Certification Programs Contribute to Local State Capacity Strengthening? (with Horacio Larreguy and John Marshall)

Abstract: A large recent literature emphasizes the importance of weak state capacity in explaining low public service delivery. However, less is known about the incentives and ability of governments to overcome such a constraint. We develop a theoretical model highlighting how the short-term unobservability of state capacity investments constrains such investments and ultimately limits service delivery, as well as the potential of corruptible certification programs to break this bad equilibrium. We test the model's empirical predictions in the context of a Mexican federal program designed to increase municipal public service delivery by certifying state capacity and public good provision. Certification is self-assessed and corroborated by corruptible local third-party institutions. Our difference-in-differences estimates indicate that certification had no average effect on overall public service delivery by municipal governments. However, consistent with the model, certification led to lower overall service delivery in municipalities where the certifying third party was more likely to be corrupt and municipal incumbents are more likely to be corrupt.

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Missionary Competition, Education, and Long-run Political Development: Evidence from Africa (with Horacio Larreguy and Carlos Schmidt-Padilla)

Abstract: How does historical religious competition shape long-run human capital and political development? In Africa, Catholic and Protestant missionaries competed with one another through the provision of schooling to gain adherents. We exploit plausibly exogenous variation on exposure to Catholic missionaries that generated competition between Catholic and Protestant missionaries, to assess the long-run implications of missionary competition in Africa for individual human capital development and political engagement. Specifically, restricting to the sample of modern-day villages near a Catholic diocese border circa 1920, we proxy for exposure to Catholic missionaries by the proximity to their historical diocese’s head. Our identifying assumption is that the diocese on which such a border village landed was exogenous to the village characteristics, and so was the proximity to the corresponding diocese’s head. We find that exposure to religious competition between Catholics and Protestants has long-term positive effects on Catholicism and educational outcomes. The effects on political engagement depend on the regime type where individuals reside. Only educated individuals in open anocracies — relative to those in democracies and closed anocracies — are more likely to vote and participate in local politics. These individuals are more sophisticated, as reflected by their labor market outcomes, news consumption and interest in public affairs. However, they are not more supportive of democracy or its institutions, since they appear to be disenchanted with democratic outcomes.

Selected Work in Progress

Can Social Contact Reduce Economic Conflict between Farmers and Herders? Evidence from Nigeria. (with Oeindrila Dube and James A. Robinson)

Africa’s Latent Assets: or, how to be optimistic about African development. (with James A. Robinson)

The Effect of Drug-related Violence on Local State Capacity. (with Horacio Larreguy and John Marshall)