Benjamin Olken

Direct Democracy and Local Public Goods:Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia

This paper presents an experiment where 49 Indonesian villages were randomly assigned to choose development projects through either representative-based meetings or direct election-based plebiscites. Plebiscites resulted in dramatically higher satisfaction among villagers, increased knowledge about the project, greater perceived benefits, and higher reported willingness to contribute. Changing the political mechanism had much smaller effects on the actual projects selected, with some evidence that plebiscites resulted in projects chosen by women being located in poorer areas. Read more »

Monitoring Corruption: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia

This paper presents a randomized field experiment on reducing corruption in over 600 Indonesian village road projects. The author finds that increasing government audits from 4 percent of projects to 100 percent reduced missing expenditures, as measured by discrepancies between official project costs and an independent engineers’ estimate of costs, by eight percentage points. Read more »