Bureaucratic Discrimination in Electoral Authoritarian Regimes: Experimental Evidence from Russia

Michael Rochlitz (University of Bremen)
Evgeniya Mitrokhina (Higher School of Economics )
Irina Nizovkina (Higher School of Economics )

Abstract: Are investors in electoral authoritarian regimes discriminated against for political activism? In this study, we implement a simple experiment to test whether affiliation with the ruling party or the political opposition affects the probability that potential investors receive advice from investment promotion agencies in Russian regions. Between December 2016 and June 2017, we sent 1504 emails with a short question and a number of randomized treatments to 188 investment promotion agencies in 70 Russian regions. Although investment promotion agencies are nominally depoliticized in Russia, we find that switching the political affiliation of a potential investor from the opposition party “Yabloko” to the government party “United Russia” on average increases the chances to receive a reply by 30%. The effect strongly depends on regional levels of political competition, with higher levels of discrimination in regions that are less politically competitive.