QAPEC Discussion Papers
18 - Terrorist violence and the fuzzy frontier: national vs supranational identities in BritainVincenzo Bove, Georgios Efthyvoulou & Harry Pickard
We explore the effect of terrorism on individuals’ perceptions about national identity in the context of Great Britain, where national and supranational identities compete and overlap. We find that exposure to terrorist attacks strengthens identification with Britain, but has no effect on identification with its constituent nations. The estimated effects last for about 45 days, but subside over time as the threat fades away. We also find that ‘high-media’ attacks result in a Britishness-strengthening effect that is about twice as large as that for ‘low-media’ attacks. Finally, we show that exposure to terrorism leads to stronger allegiance to EU identity, which provides further support for the emerge of supranational-unity effects. Overall, our results differ from numerous previous studies on how violence reinforces ‘hardline beliefs’, exacerbating nativism and ‘narrow’ forms of in-group solidarity.
17 - Does Data Disclosure Improve Local Government Performance? Evidence from Italian MunicipalitiesBen Lockwood, Francesco Porcelli, Michela Redoano & Antonio Schiavone
We exploit the introduction of an open data online platform - part of a transparency program initiated by the Italian Government in late 2014 - as a natural experiment to analyse the effect of data disclosure on mayors’ expenditure and public good provision. First, we analyse the effect of the program by comparing municipalities on the border between ordinary and special regions, exploiting the fact that the latter regions did not participate in the program. We find that mayors in ordinary regions immediately change their behaviour after data disclosure by improving the disclosed indicators, and that the reaction depends also on their initial relative performance, a yardstick competition effect. Second, we investigate the effect of mayors’ attention to data disclosure within treated regions by tracking their daily accesses to the platform, which we instrument with the daily publication of newspaper articles mentioning the program. We find that mayors react to data disclosure by decreasing spending via a reduction of service provision, resulting in an aggregate decrease in efficiency. Overall, mayors seem to target variables that are disclosed on the website at the expense of variables that are less salient.
16 - Terrorism, perpetrators and polarization : Evidence from natural experimentsVincenzo Bove, Riccardo Di Leo, Georgios Efthyvoulou & Harry Pickard
We analyze whether affective polarization – the extent to which citizens feel sympathy towards partisan in-groups and antagonism towards partisan out- groups – can be aggravated by terrorism violence. Terrorist attacks intensify pre-existing ideological worldviews and partisan leanings and bring divisive political issues to the fore. Yet, they can also lead individuals from the entire political spectrum to come together and dissociate from the terrorists and their radical ideas. To identify causal effects, we exploit a series of natural experiments in Great Britain and leverage the timing of fatal far-right and Islamic terrorist attacks and the date of interview of respondents in the British Election Study. We find that Islamic attacks increase affective polarization whereas far-right attacks depolarize the electorate. We demonstrate that this discrepancy is largely driven by the salience of the attack – and the resulting threat perceptions – and the attitudes towards contentious and polarizing issues.
15 - National Polls, Local Preferences and Voters’ Behaviour : Evidence from the UK General ElectionsEleonora Alabrese
A central challenge for social scientists consists in explaining why people vote and what are the consequences of their behaviour. Exploiting variation in national opinion polls across UK general elections, and in the degree of safeness of British constituencies over time, I provide evidence of a significant impact of pre-election polls on electoral outcomes and shed light on a novel mechanism. I find that opinion polls affect voters’ behaviour via their interaction with the recent electoral history of a constituency : first, turnout decreases when the polls predict non-competitive elections, and this effect is stronger in safe seats. Second, the composition of local vote shares and parties’ performance is also impacted by anticipated election closeness and the effects vary heterogeneously depending on whether polls predictions are aligned with the past electoral outcomes of a constituency. Finally, the causal impact on voters’ participation is confirmed with consistent individual-level evidence.
14 - Political Identity and Foreign Aid Efficacy : Evidence from Pakistani SchoolsSanval Nasim & Andreas Stegman
We conduct a field experiment to study whether concerns to preserve an anti-liberal self-image affect low cost, private school owners' willingness to explore a collaboration with a liberal Pakistani NGO. While explicitly revealing the NGO's liberal motivation to school owners has a significant impact on beliefs about the NGO's objectives, on average, we find only limited evidence that treated school owners are less willing to explore a collaboration with our partner NGO. However, heterogeneous treatment effects suggest that differences in political identity cause negative reactions among the minority of school owners expressing conservative beliefs during a seemingly unrelated follow-up survey.
13 - In the Grip of Whitehall? The Effects of Party Control on Local Fiscal Policy in the UKBenjamin Lockwood, Francesco Porcelli & James Rockey
This paper uses an instrumental variable approach based on close elections to evaluate the effect of political parties on local fiscal policy in England and Wales over the period 1998-2016. Our main finding is that political control of the council (by Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat parties) has no effect on total expenditure, the composition of expenditure, the property tax rate (council tax per band D property) or total council tax revenue. Thus, our results confirm the widely expressed belief that centrally imposed constraints on local government fiscal policy (rate-capping, and more recently, compulsory referenda) hold local government fiscal policy in a tight grip.
12 - Dynamic Electoral Competition with Voter Loss-Aversion and Imperfect RecallBen Lockwood, Minh Le & James Rockey
This paper explores the implications of voter loss-aversion and imperfect recall for the dynamics of electoral competition in a simple Downsian model of repeated elections. We first establish a benchmark result: when the voters’ reference point is forward-looking, there are a continuum of rational expectations equilibria (REE). When voters are backward-looking i.e. the reference point is last period’s recalled policy, interesting dynamics only emerge when voters have imperfect recall about that policy. Then, the interplay between the median voter’s reference point and political parties’ choice of platforms generates a dynamic process of polarization (or de-polarization). Under the assumption that parties are risk-neutral, platforms monotonically converge over time to a long-run equilibrium, which is always a REE. When parties are risk-averse, dynamic incentives also come into play, and generally lead to more policy moderation, resulting in equilibria that are more moderate than the most moderate REE.
11 - The Right to Health and the Health Effects of DenialsSonia Bhalotra & Manuel Fernandez
We investigate supply-side barriers to medical care in Colombia, where citizens have a constitutional right to health, but insurance companies impose restrictions. We use administrative data on judicial claims for health as a proxy for unmet demand. We validate this using the health services utilization register, showing that judicial claims map into large, pervasive decreases in medical consultations, procedures, hospitalizations and emergency care. This manifests in population health outcomes. We identify increases in mortality pervasive across cause, age and sex, with larger increases for cancer, individuals over the age of fifty, women and the poor.
10 - Fiscal Rules and the selection of politicians : theory and evidence from ItalyMatteo Gamalerio & Federico Trombetta
Fiscal rules, i.e., constraints to the policymaking discretion of elected officials, are widely used tools to regulate fiscal policies. We build a simple model that combines fiscal rules with endogenous entry into politics, showing how fiscal rules can negatively affect the quality (in terms of education) of candidates running for office. The mechanism behind this effect is due to the differential ability in choosing the correct policy between high and low education politicians and the fact that fiscal rules constraint politicians' actions, creating a relatively higher entry cost for high education politicians. Consistent with the model, the empirical analysis developed with data from Italian municipalities and a difference-in-discontinuity design shows that fiscal rules negatively affect candidates' education. We also show that municipalities where fiscal rules meaningfully restrict the action space of politicians (i.e., those not ex-ante financially constrained) drive the effect. In addition, we provide evidence that high education politicians are more likely to choose the correct policy when fiscal rules do not apply. These results highlight a new general equilibrium effect of fiscal rules. Reducing policymaking discretion may alleviate inter-jurisdictional externalities and pork-barrel spending. However, it may also lower the quality of the political class.
09 - Who watches the watchmen? Local news and police behavior in the United StatesNicola Mastrorocco & Arianna Ornaghi
Do U.S. municipal police departments respond to news coverage of local crime? We address this question exploiting an exogenous shock to local crime reporting induced by acquisitions of local TV stations by a large broadcast group, Sinclair. Using a unique dataset of 8.5 million news stories and a triple differences design, we document that Sinclair acquisitions decrease news coverage of local crime. This matters for policing: municipalities that experience the change in news coverage have lower violent crime clearance rates relative to municipalities that do not. The result is consistent with a decrease of crime salience in the public opinion.
08 - Gender Attitudes in the Judiciary : Evidence from U.S. Circuit CourtsElliott Ash, Daniel L. Chen & Arianna Ornaghi
Do gender attitudes influence interactions with female judges in U.S. Circuit Courts? In this paper, we propose a novel judge-specific measure of gender attitudes based on use of gender-stereotyped language in the judge’s authored opinions. Exploiting quasi-random assignment of judges to cases and conditioning on judges’ characteristics, we validate the measure showing that slanted judges vote more conservatively in gender-related cases. Slant influences interactions with female colleagues: slanted judges are more likely to reverse lower-court decisions if the lower-court judge is a woman than a man, are less likely to assign opinions to female judges, and cite fewer female authored opinions.
07 - How Polarized are Citizens? Measuring Ideology from the Ground-UpMirko Draca & Carlo Schwarz
Strong evidence has been emerging that major democracies have become more politically polarized, at least according to measures based on the ideological positions of political elites. We ask: have the general public (`citizens') followed the same pattern? Our approach is based on unsupervised machine learning models as applied to issue position survey data. This approach firstly indicates that coherent, latent ideologies are strongly apparent in the data, with a number of major, stable types that we label as: Liberal Centrist, Conservative Centrist, Left Anarchist and Right Anarchist. Using this framework, and a resulting measure of `citizen slant', we are then able to decompose the shift in ideological positions across the population over time. Specifically, we find evidence of a `disappearing center' in a range of countries with citizens shifting away from centrist ideologies into anti-establishment `anarchist' ideologies over time. This trend is especially pronounced for the US.
06 - What's left after right-wing extremism? The effects on political orientationHarry Pickard, Georgios Efthyvoulou & Vincenzo Bove
Does radical right political violence favour or hinder public support for right-wing stances? Numerous existing studies have demonstrated that Islamic terrorism provokes a conservative shift, increases nationalism and induces negative sentiments towards immigration. However, little is known about the consequences of far-right terrorism, despite its incidence in Western societies. We leverage four waves of the British Election Study (BES) and use a quasi-experimental design to analyse individual political orientations shortly before and after terrorist attacks. We find that respondents distance themselves from the ideology associated with the perpetrator and shift away from ideological positions at the right end of the political spectrum. Furthermore, respondents are less likely to report nationalistic attitudes and immigration skepticism, core tenets of extremist right-wing political ideologies. Our findings suggest that the characteristics of the perpetrators and their driving goals are crucial factors shaping the impact of terrorism on public sentiments
05 - Demagogues and the Fragility of DemocracyDan Bernhardt, Stefan Krasa & Mehdi Shadmehr
We investigate the susceptibility of Democracy to demagogues, studying tensions between representatives who guard voters’ long-run interests and demagogues who cater to voters’ short-run desires. Parties propose consumption and investment. Voters base choices on current-period consumption and valence shocks. Younger/poorer economies and economically-disadvantaged voters are attracted to the demagogue’s dis-investment policies, forcing far-sighted representatives to mimic them. This electoral competition can destroy democracy: if capital falls below a critical level, a death spiral ensues with capital stocks falling thereafter. We identify when economic development mitigates this risk and characterize how the death-spiral risk declines as capital grows large.
04 - The Effects of Social Capital on Government Performance and Turnover: Theory and Evidence from Italian MunicipalitiesBen Lockwood, Francesco Porcelli, Michela Redoano, Emanuele Bracco, Federica Liberini & Daniel Sgroi
This paper makes three contributions. First, it presents a theoretical analysis of how social capital, formalized as trust in politicians, impacts on government performance and turnover, employing a political agency model with both moral hazard and adverse selection. Second, it presents novel measures of both local government performance and on social capital at the Italian municipality level, using administrative data and an online survey respectively. Third, empirical results are consistent with the main predictions of the theory; higher social capital improves both the discipline and selection effects of elections (performance both in the first and final terms in office), but also increases turnover of incumbent mayors.
03 - Women Legislators and Economic PerformanceThushyanthan Baskaran, Sonia Bhalotra, Brian Min & Yogesh Uppal
There has been a phenomenal global increase in the proportion of women in politics in the last two decades, but there is no evidence of how this influences economic performance. We investigate this using data on competitive elections to India's state assemblies, leveraging close elections to isolate causal effects. We find significantly higher growth in economic activity in constituencies that elect women and no evidence of negative spillovers to neighbouring male-led constituencies, consistent with net growth. Probing mechanisms, we find evidence consistent with women legislators being more efficacious, less corrupt and less vulnerable to political opportunism.
02 - Maternal mortality and women’s political participationSonia Bhalotra, Damian Clarke, Joseph F. Gomes & Atheendar Venkataramani
Millions of women continue to die during and soon after childbirth, even where the knowledge and resources to avoid this are available. We posit that raising the share of women in parliament can trigger action. Leveraging the timing of gender quota legislation across developing countries, we identify sharp sustained reductions of 8–10 percent in maternal mortality. Investigating mechanisms, we find that gender quotas lead to increases in percentage points of 5–8 in skilled birth attendance and 4–8 in prenatal care utilization, alongside a decline in fertility of 6–7 percent and an increase in the schooling of young women of about 0.5 years. The results are robust to numerous robustness checks. They suggest a new policy tool for tackling maternal mortality.
01 - Cultural Identity and Social Capital in ItalyDaniel Sgroi, Michela Redoano, Federica Liberini, Ben Lockwood, Emanuele Bracco and Francesco Porcelli
Italy became one nation only relatively recently and as such there remains significant regional variation in trust in government and society (so-called “social capital”) as well as in language and diet. In an experiment conducted across three Italian cities we exploit variation in family background generated through internal migration and make use of novel measures of social capital, language and diet to develop a new index of cultural heritage. Our new index predicts social capital, while self-reported identity does not. The missing link between the past and current identity seems to come through grandparents (especially maternal grandmothers) who have a strong role in developing the cultural identity of their grandchildren.