How Does Delegating Decisions to Beneficiaries Affect Their Access to a Public Service? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Bangladesh.

Malgosia Madajewicz (Columbia University)
Anna Tompsett (Stockholm University)
Ahasan Habib (NGO Forum for Public Health)

Abstract : Community participation in providing public services has the potential to improve access to services, but how different types of participation improve access, for whom, and under what conditions is not well understood. This experiment demonstrates how access to safe drinking water changes when the beneficiaries have the authority to make decisions that influence access compared to the implementing agency having the authority to make the same decisions. The project installs sources of safe drinking water in villages in Bangladesh. We allocate villages randomly to a top-down approach and two different delegated approaches. In one delegated approach, the community organizes itself to make decisions (community participation). The second seeks to limit elite control by requiring that the community make all decisions in a meeting, which is subject to participation requirements, and that all decisions be unanimous (regulated community participation). The proportion of households who use safe drinking water increases under all three approaches, but delegating decisions improves access relative to the top-down approach only when the approach limits the influence of elites. The regulated community approach increases the use of safe water about 70% to 80% more than do the other two approaches. The top-down approach uses local information less effectivelyectively, and installs fewer sources than do the two participatory approaches. Under the community approach, elites restrict access to safe water sources. The regulated community approach expands participation in decision-making, and it results in bargaining that limits the influence of elites. The relative benefits of the three approaches depend on the context.

Free to Choose: Testing the Pure Motivation Effect of Autonomous Choice

Tomas Sjöström (Rutgers University)
Levent Ülkü (ITAM-CIE)
Radovan Vadovic (Carleton University)

Abstract : We conduct an experimental test of the long-standing conjecture that autonomy increases motivation and job performance. Subjects face a menu consisting of two projects: one risky and one safe. The probability that the risky project succeeds depends on the subject's effort. In one treatment, subjects choose a project from the menu; in the other treatment, they are assigned a project from the menu. Using a difference-in-difference approach that controls for various forms of selection, we show that autonomy (the right to choose a project) has a significant pure motivation effect on effort. The effect is consistent with aversion to anticipated regret (but not with standard expected-utility maximization): if the agent chooses the risky project and fails, he will regret not having chosen the safe project, and this motivates him to work hard to avoid a failure. Regret theory makes further predictions that are also supported by the data. First, that the pure motivation effect is greater if the menu of feasible projects is diverse, generating a more meaningful choice among projects. Second, that the effort on the risky project is greater, the greater is the return to the safe project, because this (foregone) return determines the amount of regret. Finally, we find a significant negative relationship between the strength of the pure motivation effect and the subjects' expected earnings.

Abstinence is Not Indifference - Lowering Voting Costs Leads to Higher Participation and Better Informed Voters

Rebecca Morton (NYU Abu Dhabi)
Stephan Tontrup (New York University School of Law)

Abstract : The recent US presidential election had the lowest turnout of the last 20 years. Most established democracies have experienced a steady decline of participation since the 1970s. As voting costs are usually small, low participation is often taken as an indication of indifference or apathy about the democratic process. In this study we present evidence that individuals value their voting right and the democratic process, even when they have no intention of voting. We conducted a field experiment at the election for the student parliament of the University of Münster, Germany. In this election only 20 percent of the eligible students submit a vote. However, when we offered compensation for voting costs, 95% of the students participated in the election. The random price mechanism we used for offering the compensation allowed us to identify the students who would not have voted without being paid. After the election we presented the subjects with an incentivized surprise quiz. Our results show that the students significantly increased their knowledge about the election in order to submit an informed vote. The result holds also for the students who would not have voted without the payment. The improvement of the subjects is highly correlated with the valuation subjects indicated to have for their voting right before the election. Our findings show that abstinence should not be translated into indifference. Lowering voting cots like voter registrations in the US may be an effective instrument for policy makers to increase participation with better informed voters.