Chris Blattman

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One of the nicest field experiments I have seen

In many emerging democracies women are less likely to vote than men and, when they do vote, are more likely to follow the wishes of household males. The authors assess the impact of a voter awareness campaign on female turnout and candidate choice. Geographic clusters within villages were randomly assigned to treatment or control, and within treated clusters, some households were left untreated. Compared with women in control clusters, both treated and untreated women in treated clusters are 12 percentage points more likely to vote, and are also more likely to exercise independence in candidate choice, indicating large spillovers. Data from polling stations suggest that treating 10 women increased turnout by about 9 votes, resulting in a cost per vote of US$ 2.3. Finally, a 10 percent increase in the share of treated women at the polling station led to a 6 percent decrease in the share of votes of the winning party.

A new paper by Ghazala Mansuri and Xavier Gine.

Ghazala presented this paper at NYU a couple of months ago, and I’ve been waiting for the working paper ever since.

The question and findings are really important, but what really blew me away in the presentation was the care and cleverness in design.

They not only structured the study to get at the impact of an intervention, but they varied the intervention to get at different theories of voter behavior, and what might be holding women back.

They not only look at the impacts of the program on the treated, but try to get at the spillovers into neighbors, and assess the macro-level effects of a micro-program.

No paper is perfect, but this is one of the nicest packages I’ve seen and a model for people thinking about field experiments in future. If the era of the simple NGO program evaluation is not dead, it is gasping its dying breath. (Hopefully not before my own flawed first attempts get published, but just possibly.)

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