Electoral Rules and Leader Selection: Experimental Evidence from Ugandan Community Groups

Miri Stryjan, Erika Deserranno, Munshi Sulaiman

Research output: Working paper


This paper studies leadership selection in community groups. Despite a large body of work documenting how electoral systems affect policy outcomes, less is know about their impact on leader selection. We compare two types of participatory decision making in Ugandan community saving groups: vote by secret ballot and open discussion with consensus. Random assignment of electoral rules allows us to estimate the causal impact of the rules on leader types and on social service delivery. We find that vote groups elect leaders more similar to the average member while discussion group leaders are positively selected on socio-economic characteristics. Further, dropout rates are significantly higher in discussion groups, particularly for the poorer members. After 3.5 years, vote groups are larger in size and their members save less and get smaller loans. We conclude that the secret ballot vote creates more inclusive groups while open discussion groups are more exclusive and favor the economically successful. The appropriate method for leader selection thus ultimately depends on the objective and target group of the program. Our findings offer important contributions to the literature on leader selection and to the understanding of public service delivery in developing countries.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages46
StatePublished - Jun 2015


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