Erik Wibbels is the Robert O. Keohane professor of political science at Duke University and the co-general editor of the Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics series. His research focuses on development, redistribution and political geography and has been published by Cambridge University Press, World Politics, International Organization, American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review and other journals. He also works with bilateral and multilateral donors to improve the design and evaluation of governance programming and is a founding member of the DevLab@Duke. Current major projects include an attempt to combine surveys and satellite imagery to identify slums in India and understand the conditions under which residents achieve property rights and successfully attract public services; an impact evaluation of a large, district-level governance program in Ghana; and work on how the geographic emergence and spread of state authority impact long-term economic development at the local level.
Governance as Points, Lines and Polygons: Evidence from an Impact Evaluation in Ghana and 45,000 Development Projects
This talk will cover three related topics. First, it will report on a five-year effort to harmonise the boundary between academic research, university administrations and the development industry (broadly understood to include donors themselves and the implementers they hire). Second, as a means of providing some specific context, I will describe the design, implementation and preliminary results of a unique, district-level RCT in Ghana that is being implemented in the context of a USAID governance project. The projects exploits random assignment of two accountability initiatives across 150 districts and data collection across 4,500 households, 1500 administrators and 1400 politicians. Third, I conclude with preliminary results and a plead for help on an academic extension to the Ghana project that aims to understand why politicians build projects—schools, clinics, public toilets, etc.—in the places that they do. We have combined the geolocation of approximately 45,000 district-built projects with voting booth and enumeration area-level census data to try to understand the role of community “need” and electoral characteristics in shaping the allocation of projects. The research involves a reconceptualisation of distributive targeting and substantial technical challenges, but its offers the prospect of insight into distributive politics and the political geography of government projects.