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The impact of educated leaders on economic development: Evidence from India

Chandan Jain, Shagun Kashyap, Rahul Lahoti and Soham Sahoo

Journal of Comparative Economics, 2023, vol. 51, issue 3, 1068-1093

Abstract: Although formal education is often considered an indicator of political leaders’ quality, the evidence on the effectiveness of educated leaders is mixed. Besides, minimum education qualifications are increasingly being used as requirements for contesting elections, making it critical to understand the role of politicians’ education in their performance. This study investigates the impact of electing an educated politician on economic development in the politician’s constituency in India. The analysis uses constituency-level panel data on the intensity of night-time lights to measure economic activity. The identification strategy is based on a regression discontinuity design that exploits quasi-random outcomes of close elections between educated and less-educated politicians. The results show that narrowly electing a graduate leader, as compared to a non-graduate leader, in the state assembly constituency increases the growth rate of night-time lights by about 3 percentage points in the constituency. As pathways, graduate leaders are found to improve the provision of roads, electricity, and power; however, they do not significantly impact the overall provision of public goods. In comparison with findings from other studies in the literature, these results suggest that the impact of formal education of the leader is weaker than the leader’s other characteristics, such as gender or criminality.

Keywords: Educated political leaders; Night-time lights; Close elections; Public goods; India (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 H11 H41 H73 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2023
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2023.05.001

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