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Title Information and Accountability: Evidence from India
Post date 09/10/2018
C1 Background and Explanation of Rationale

In recent years many developing democracies have substantially improved access to public schooling and have seen significant increases in school enrolment. While this has been a significant achievement, many children in public schools still perform well below expected learning levels. In India, for example, over 60 percent of children aged 6-14 cannot read at the second grade level, despite primary school enrolment rates of over 95 percent. It is clear that citizens in India do care for access to high quality education. Moreover, they are often aware of low levels of learning in govern- ment schools and do express disapproval of government facilities (Dreze and Sen 1995). Yet these concerns do not translate into political demands for improvements in public education, in the way that concerns over the provision of other public services lead to demands for goods such as roads, electricity or water (cite something to support this in India, i.e. that citizens care about, and vote for, the provision of other public goods).
This problem raises an important question about the limits to democratic accountability. Why do citizens who are dissatisfied with the quality of public education not voice demand for its improvement by their elected representatives? Such low levels of demands of a service that is poorly provided and has a high impact on citizen welfare is puzzling. Most studies of democratic accountability focus on whether voters punish or reward politicians for services that they deliver. By evaluating and rewarding policies that incumbents delivers, voters ensure that policymakers invest in those policies and enhance overall welfare. This potential welfare enhancing effect of democracy requires voters to raise demands for improvements in public services; absent voter demands for services as crucial as education input it is not a surprise that governments overlook the provision of these inputs. Despite the potential gravity of this problem, we possess little knowledge about why voters do not prioritise demands for better quality education.

C2 What are the hypotheses to be tested? In this study we use experimental methods in the context of New Delhi, India to examine (a) whether attribution is a problem that makes citizens less likely to raise demands for education and less likely to prefer or vote for candidates that promise improvements on education; and (b) whether information can improve attribution and consequently raise citizens’ demands for improvements to education. We provide information on attribution for responsibility for education inputs in government schools in Delhi and examine whether this leads voters to (a) correctly attribute responsibility for these inputs; (b) increase political demands for education inputs; and (c) political participation and interest; (d) prefer candidates that emphasise education inputs over candidates that emphasise other policies in their campaign promises. Finally, because we use a realistic partisan medium for the information treatment (a voice message recorded by an incumbent politician), we are also able to examine whether party affiliation conditions the impact of information on citizen choices. We also use the baseline (and control group) conjoint to analyse how the role of demographics such as, caste, gender, occupation, political backgrounds and political experience feature into voter choice. This has remained unexamined in urban Indian context.
C3 How will these hypotheses be tested? *

The objective of the proposed research is to investigate whether attribution is a problem that makes citizens less likely to raise demands for education and less likely to prefer / vote for candidates that promise improvements on education. Attribution remains unexamined in the Indian context. Apart from general descriptive that suggest attribution may be a problem, specific data is lacking.
To fill this lacuna we first undertake a baseline survey of approx. 1000 respondents to collect data on quality of attribution amongst citizens in the urban capital of India, New Delhi. This will help us gauge the extent to which this problem is prevalent across voter demographics. We also embed a conjoint experiment in the baseline to examine respondents’ preferences for political candidates that vary on type of public services they focus on such as education, healthcare, road repairs as well as vary on caste, gender, political experience and previous occupation. This is followed by a field experiment in collaboration with the Department of Education and Education Minister / Deputy Chief Minister in Delhi. In this field experiment we expose a subset of randomly selected respondents to information on attribution with regards to education policy and a follow up panel survey of the same 1000 respondents to examine whether the treatment influences both attribution and preferences towards education. The design is described in detail in the pre-analysis plan.

C4 Country India
C5 Scale (# of Units) For pilot – 60-90 HHs, For full study – 1000 HHs
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 This study has been reviewed by, and received ethics clearance through, the University of Oxford Central University Research Ethics Committee (Reference number: R58325/RE001).
C9 Date of IRB Approval 20/07/2018
C10 Will the intervention be implemented by the researcher or a third party? Morsel Agency
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? not provided by authors
C13 JEL Classification(s) not provided by authors