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Events
The Anatomy of Failure: An Ethnography of a Randomized Trial to Deepen Democracy in Rural India
May 27, 2015Poverty and Applied Microeconomics Seminar Series

Vijayendra Rao will present the results of recent research.

Speaker: Vijayendra Rao is a Lead Economist in the Development Research Group. He integrates his training in economics with theories and methods from anthropology, sociology and political science to study the social, cultural, and political context of extreme poverty in developing countries. More »

Abstract: Programs that induce citizen participation to improve the quality of government at the local level are the subjects of large amounts of funding and intense debate. This paper combines a randomized control trial of a citizenship training and facilitation program in rural India, with an in-depth, four-year ethnography of the intervention to understand the underlying mechanisms of change. The quantitative data show no impact from the intervention. Household and village survey data from 100 treatment and 100 control villages show considerable improvement across a wide variety of governance and participation indicators over time, but the differences in the changes between treatment and control villages are not statistically significant. The detailed qualitative data from a 10 percent subsample allow us to unpack the reasons why the intervention "failed," highlighting the role of variations in the quality of facilitation, lack of top-down support, and difficulties with confronting the stubborn challenge of persistent inequality. However, the qualitative investigation also uncovered subtle treatment effects that are difficult to observe in structured surveys. The paper thus demonstrates that a concerted effort to use "thick description" to uncover the process of change using careful and detailed qualitative work can add value to standard impact evaluations.

Paper 

Last Updated: May 20, 2015

The Poverty and Applied Micro Seminar Series is a weekly series hosted by the World Bank's research department. The series invites leading researchers in applied microeconomics from the fields of poverty, human development and public service delivery, agriculture and rural development, political economy, behavioral economics, private sector development, and a range of other fields to present the results of their most recent research in a seminar format. The full list of seminars can be viewed here.

Event Details
  • Date: May 27, 2015
  • Location: World Bank Headquarters, MC3-570
  • Time: 12:30 - 2:00 p.m.
  • CONTACT: Anna Bonfield
  • abonfield@worldbank.org