GLD Working Papers

The (Spatial) Ties that Bind: Frequent Casual Contact, the Shadow of the Future, and Prosociality Across Ethnic Divisions

Paige Bollen


What can spur prosocial behavior across ethnic divisions? A host of studies focus on the potential power of deep contact between group members. Bollen instead focuses on the capacity of casual contact. While most research finds that a higher volume of casual contact with outgroup members augments divisions between groups, she centers her analysis on the under-theorized effect of repeated casual contact with the same outgroup members. Bollen uses a survey experiment in Accra, Ghana to show that repeated casual contact can increase prosocial behavior towards non-coethnics because it shifts individuals’ expectations about sanctioning, reciprocity, and findability. By exploring the space between social embeddedness and social anonymity, these findings add consideration to the consequences of repeated casual contact in the inter-ethnic relations literature.

Do List Experiments Run as Expected? Examining Implementation Failure in Kenya, Zambia, and Malawi

Kristen Kao and Ellen Lust 


A fundamental premise of list experiments is that they allow respondents to hide sensitive attitudes and behaviors among a list of other items. List experiments accomplish this by asking the respondent to count both sensitive and innocuous items, rather than answering questions directly about each item. Social scientists widely employ list experiments to overcome sensitivity bias but have not yet systematically studied whether the complicated nature of these experiments leads to implementation errors. Analysis of a list experiment across three countries suggests that respondents reveal their direct responses to list items more than half of the time. This problem is particularly prevalent among less educated and older respondents, and the complicated nature of the question mediates the relationships between age and education and reveals answers. Kao and Lust encourage scholars to include questions about implementation problems as standard follow-ups in list experiments to understand if they worked properly in the field.

Keywords: List experiment, survey methodology, Sub-Saharan Africa, sensitivity bias, social desirability bias

Roadblocks Remain: Constrains to Women's Political Participation in Pakistan

Natalya Rahman and Sarah Thompson


How can governments encourage political participation by all? In this study, the authors ask why certain groups are less likely to vote solely based on where they are assigned to vote and argue that mobility plays an important role. They focus on Pakistan, the world’s sixth-most populous country. Despite instituting reforms like single-gender polling stations, Pakistan is among the lowest-ranked countries for women’s political participation. This paper uses 2018 polling station data to show that mixed-gender polling stations increase women’s turnout. The authors also present descriptive findings to show that chance assignments to certain polling stations make women, but not men, more likely to turn out. They then use a survey experiment to test one possible explanation—mobility. Constraints to mobility have been shown to negatively impact women’s educational and labor force choices, but their impact on women’s political participation has not been directly tested. The paper finds that when women’s mobility is constrained by a lack of male accompaniment or they expect to travel along a predominantly male route, their likelihood to turn out decreases. It also find that women are more likely to vote in areas familiar to them (i.e., primary schools where they drop their children and girls’ schools they attended). The study implies that strategies to increase women’s political participation in developing democracies should take the role of women’s mobility seriously.

Leadership, Community Ties, and Participation of the Poor: Evidence from Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia.

Prisca Jöst & Ellen Lust


Research on public goods provision in Africa suggests that local leaders’ ability to mobilize the poor varies with the nature of the community. Yet there remains uncertainty about why local leaders are better at mobilizing the poor in some communities than others. In this paper, Jöst and Lust address this question. They examine the relationship between the social density of local communities, the social proximity of authority figures to these communities (local or distant leadership), and leaders’ ability to mobilize the poor to contribute to educational and burial funds or vote for an endorsed candidate. To do so, the authors employ a conjoint experiment and utilize observational data from an original survey fielded in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia. They find that the poor respond more to neighbours and local leaders than to distant leaders and that the social density of communities moderates this relationship. Moreover, examining the mechanisms, it is found that the fear of sanctions or expected rewards, and the desire to bandwagon with others in the community appear to drive mobilization. These findings extend the understanding of how leadership and social ties facilitate mobilization, particularly among the poor.




Politics and Community Narratives of Participation in Local Governance of Rural India

Mudit Kumar Singh


Public engagement is vital to achieving good local governance. For the last three decades, donor agencies such as World Bank (WB) have emphasized community participation and local government. Thus, understanding the micro-level ethnic and political nuances of community participation in these local governing institutions is essential. India has the second-largest population in the world with a long history of local governance reforms, so it offers valuable insights into these connections. Using the data on local elections and the narratives gathered by face-to-face interviews and participant observation, the paper highlights that people are losing interest in local participation. Councils have many vacancies, and contesting elections for council members is declining. This will increasingly centralize decision-making at the local level years of decentralization reforms would be lost. The narratives from select villages suggest further decentralization of financial powers among the village council members is needed. Additional funding alone would not increase community participation in villages; a devolution of financial powers at the village committee level must accompany additional funding in order to make local governance more inclusive.