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Coethnic Rivalry and Solidarity: The Political Economy of Politician-Bureaucrat Cooperation in India

Government and Institutions

When do bureaucrats help politicians achieve their goals? We argue that shared identity can produce solidarity or rivalry. Under conditions of scarcity, solidarity is more likely between groups with shared histories of successful political mobilization, whereas rivalry is more likely between groups with histories of unsuccessful mobilization. We test these claims by examining the effect of caste on the approval times of pork barrel projects in India. Consistent with our theory, politicians see projects approved more quickly by bureaucrats from the same caste category in Southern India, where lower castes successfully mobilized for affirmative action in the past. In Northern India, where such mobilization efforts were less successful, project approvals are slower. These results suggest that shared identity can supplement formal institutional controls in bureaucracies and that identity congruence can have positive or negative effects dependent on contingent historical factors.

wp2052.pdf (1.03 MB)
Rikhil R. Bhavnani
Alexander Lee
Soledad Artiz Prillaman
Publication Date
August, 2023