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Village Elections, Public Goods Investments and Pork Barrel Politics, Chinese-style

Stanford University Professor Scott Rozelle examines economic policies in Chinese rural areas.

November 14, 2007 4:00pm to 5:30pm

Professor Rozelle will present data gathered from 1998 to 2004 in 2,450 randomly selected Chinese villages. He and his colleagues were interested in the accountability that governance structures impose on public officials and how elections and representative democracy influences the allocation of public resources. They found evidence—both in descriptive and econometric analyses—that when the village leader is elected, ceteris paribus, the provision of public goods rises (compared to the case when the leader is appointed by upper level officials). Therefore democratization—at least at the village level in rural China—appears to increase the quantity of public goods investment. In addition, Prof. Rozelle and his co-authors found that when elected village leaders are able to implement more public projects during their terms of office, they, as the incumbent, are more likely to be reelected. They conclude that the link between elections and investment may be a rural China version of pork barrel politics. 

Scott Rozelle is Helen F. Farnsworth Senior Fellow in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. He has also taught at UC Davis. Prof. Rozelle’s work focuses on three general themes: a) agricultural policy, including the supply, demand and trade in agricultural projects; b) the emergence and evolution of markets and other economic institutions in the transition process and their implications for equity and efficiency; and c) the economics of poverty and inequality. Among his recent publications is From Marx and Mao to Market: The Economics and Politics of Agricultural Transition (Oxford, 2007), a co-authored work for the World Bank, “Investing in China’s Rural Infrastructure and Environment” and “The rise of self-employment in China: Development or distress?” published in World Development (Jan. 2007)

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