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Do Good Intentions Matter? Experimental Evidence on how Citizens Respond to Promises of Government Service Delivery

by Ali Cheema, Asim Khwaja, Farooq Naseer, Jacob Shapiro | Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Can government programmes that fail to deliver still influence citizen behaviour? Large literatures in political science and economics study the effect of various government programs on how citizens engage with the state. A tacit assumption in many of these papers is that citizens value government programmes proportionally to the amount of money spent. Yet there is tremendous heterogeneity in the mapping between spending and how much value citizens actually get from a programme. And even programmes that do not work may still reflect substantial government investments, thereby informing citizens' beliefs about how much weight the government places on their welfare. Using a large-scale randomised evaluation of a vocational training programme in southern Punjab we provide evidence that good intentions might matter; citizens offered a program that almost no one used voted for the ruling party at higher rates in subsequent elections if offered multiple training vouchers than if only offered one. Men who received the training offer became more socially engaged and used government services at higher rates. Women had the opposite reaction. These results have implications for theories of civic engagement.

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