Parochial Politics: Ethnic Preferences and Politician Corruption

CID Faculty Working Paper No. 147

Abhijit V. Banerjee and Rohini Pande
July 2007


This paper examines how increased voter ethnicization, defined as a greater preference for the party representing one's ethnic group, affects politician quality. If politics is characterized by incomplete policy commitment, then ethnicization reduces average winner quality for the pro-majority party with the opposite true for the minority party. The effect increases with greater numerical dominance of the majority (and so social homogeneity). Empirical evidence from a survey on politician corruption that we conducted in North India is remarkably consistent with our theoretical predictions.

Keywords: ethnic voting, corruption, India

JEL subject codes: P16, O12