650 Childs Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089

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Our speaker will be Augustin Bergeron (USC Economics).

Lunch will be provided and set out about 15-20 minutes before the talk begins.

Informal Elites as Local Bureaucrats: How Working as a Tax Collector Improves the Performance of City Chiefs in the D.R. Congo

How does delegating state responsibilities to informal local leaders impact those leaders’ distribution of resources, integrity, and legitimacy? We tackle this question by exploiting whether city chiefs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were randomly assigned to collect property taxes in 2018. To obtain an objective measure of chief behavior, we study a government cash transfer program implemented one year later in which chiefs had discretion over the recipients of development aid. We examine how delegating tax collection to chiefs impacts their (i) chosen distribution of aid benefits throughout the neighborhood, (ii) diversion of public resources, and (iii) perceived legitimacy among the residents they serve. Chiefs who collected taxes allocated more program benefits to poorer households and thus made fewer inclusion and exclusion errors. They were no more or less likely to pocket benefits or allocate them to family. Across a range of measures, citizens appear to have updated positively about chiefs who collected taxes. We provide evidence that collector chiefs were more likely to target the poor because door-to-door tax collection created opportunities to learn which households were in greatest need. (With Elie Kabue Ngindu, Gabriel Tourek, and Jonathan L. Weigel)

The discussant for Augustin’s paper will be Cesi Cruz (UCLA).

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