Direct democracy and resource allocation: Experimental evidence from Afghanistan

Authors: Andrew Beath, Fotini Christia and Ruben Enikolopov

Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 124, 199-213, January, 2017

Direct democracy is designed to better align policy outcomes with citizen preferences. To test this proposition, we randomized whether 250 villages across Afghanistan selected projects by secret-ballot referenda or by consultation meetings. We find that referenda reduce the influence of local elites over both project type and location. Consistent with previous experimental results, we also find that referenda improve villagers' perceptions of the local economy and of the quality of local governance. However, we find no systematic evidence that selecting projects via referenda increases the average impact of such projects.