Do Dynasts Make Better Politicians?


Does the politicians family connections affect the level of effort they exert once elected to public office? Economic theory predicts that political power is often unequally distributed, where certain individual enjoy an electoral advantage over others. One prominent example of this phenomenon is political dynasties, where candidates belonging to political families are persistently elected to political office. While the existing literature highlights why dynastic politicians maintain political power, the consequences of electing such politicians is relatively unknown. In this paper, I examine if dynastic politicians under perform in terms of their effort once elected to political office in the context of India, where members of prominent families often hold political office for generations. I use two main proxy measurements to measure political effort: (i) A field experiment to investigate whether the dynastic ties of the legislator affects their response to citizens’ request about the lack of regular water supply and (ii) the amounts of funds utlilized under the constituency development scheme available to each politician in their constituency. Using a regression discontinuity design, I estimate the effect of electing a dynastic politician on politician effort at the constituency level for all Indian state assembly elections held during the period of 2018 to 2023.

Abhinav Khemka
Abhinav Khemka
PhD candidate in Economics

I am a PhD student in Economics at the University of Barcelona and IEB. My research interest are in political economy and development economics with a regional focus on India.