Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1133: Who Becomes a Politican?

Ernesto Dal Bó (), Frederico Finan (), Olle Folke (), Torsten Persson () and Johanna Rickne ()
Additional contact information
Ernesto Dal Bó: University of California at Berkeley, Postal: Haas School of Business
Frederico Finan: University of California at Berkeley, Postal: Development Economics and Political Economy
Olle Folke: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: and Uppsala University
Torsten Persson: Institute for International Economic Studies, Postal: Stockholm University
Johanna Rickne: Stockholm University

Abstract: Can a democracy attract competent leaders, while attaining broad representation? Economic models suggest that free-riding incentives and lower opportunity costs give the less competent a comparative advantage at entering political life. Also, if elites have more human capital, selecting on competence may lead to uneven representation. We examine patterns of political selection among the universe of municipal politicians in Sweden using extraordinarily rich data on competence traits and social background for the entire population. We document four new facts: First, politicians are on average signi cantly smarter and better leaders than the population they represent. Second, the representation of social background, whether measured by intergenerational earnings or social class, is remarkably even. Third, there is at best a weak tradeo in selection between competence and representation. Fourth, both material and intrinsic motives matter in selection, as does screening by political parties.

Keywords: Political Selection; Political Representation; Family Background; Competence

JEL-codes: H10; H70

58 pages, September 15, 2016

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