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Title Elections and Embezzlement
Post date 08/13/2015
C1 Background and Explanation of Rationale

This experiment seeks to investigate mechanisms through which elections can influence rent extraction by public decision-makers. In the experiment, groups of citizens from a municipality are provided with a budget, and a decision-maker in their midst can decide to embezzle or misappropriate any fraction of it for personal gain. The experiment varies independently (1) whether the decision-maker is elected or appointed at random, and, after the decision-maker has been selected, (2) whether the total amount of the budget (and hence the extent of embezzlement by the decision-maker) is revealed to the group (transparency), or remain private information of the decision-maker (no transparency).

The experiment is being carried out with 2360 randomly sampled adult citizens in 118 municipalities in rural Burkina Faso. Observational comparisions across individuals and municipalities provide opportunities for validation of the research design assumptions. A detailed pre-analysis plan outlines experimental comparisons with respect to one primary and two intermediate outcomes, as well as six supplementary research questions that will help with the theoretical interpretation of the experimental results. Additionally, the pre-analysis plan outlines several ancillary experiments that arise as by-products of the research design.

The supplementary research questions are divided into two lines of inquiry, corresponding to distinct causal mechanisms that could be responsible for the primary experimental results; (1) electoral selection effects and (2) citizens' willingness to sanction embezzlement of public resources by public decision-makers.

C2 What are the hypotheses to be tested?


Hypothesis 1a: Elections reduce the embezzlement of group resources both in the presence and in the absence of transparency.

Hypothesis 1b: If group members' ability to reward or punish the
decision-maker is held constant, transparency reduces the embezzlement of group resources by both elected and randomly appointed decision-makers.

Hypothesis 2: If group members' ability to reward or punish the decision-maker is held constant, elections and transparency are substitutes in reducing the embezzlement of group resources.


Hypothesis 3: Study participants' expectations are consistent with the effects of elections and transparency on actual embezzlement outcomes.

Hypothesis 4: Elections and random appointments of decision-makers do not differ with respect to their perceived procedural fairness.


SRQ 1.1: Do elections with minimal prior communication enable strangers to identify public-spirited leaders within their municipality?

SRQ 1.2: To what extent can embezzlement decisions in the experiment be explained by baseline preferences?

SRQ 1.3: How accurate are citizens' expectations regarding the extent of embezzlement?

SRQ 2.1: Are citizens willing to incur personal costs to punish embezzlement?

SRQ 2.2: How does a lack of transparency influence citizens' willingness to engage in costly sanctioning behavior?

SRQ 2.3: Does citizens' sanctioning behavior depend on whether decision-makers are elected or not?

The pre-analysis plan further outlines validation opportunities for the outcome measures and the elections treatment, as well as a series of ancillary experiments that can potentially contribute to a better understanding of decision-, voting- and sanctioning behavior in the experiment.

C3 How will these hypotheses be tested? *

See detailed description in the pre-analysis plan.

C4 Country
C5 Scale (# of Units) not provided by authors
C6 Was a power analysis conducted prior to data collection? Yes
C7 Has this research received Insitutional Review Board (IRB) or ethics committee approval? Yes
C8 IRB Number not provided by authors
C9 Date of IRB Approval not provided by authors
C10 Will the intervention be implemented by the researcher or a third party? Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA)
C11 Did any of the research team receive remuneration from the implementing agency for taking part in this research? No
C12 If relevant, is there an advance agreement with the implementation group that all results can be published? Yes
C13 JEL Classification(s) not provided by authors