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The authors use unique survey data to study whether the introduction of local elections in China made local leaders more accountable towards local constituents. They develop a simple model to predict the effects on different policies of increasing local leader accountability, taking into account that there is an autocratic upper government. They exploit variation in the timing of the top-down introduction of elections across villages to estimate the causal effects of elections and find that elections affected policy outcomes in a way that is consistent with the predicted effects of increased local leader accountability.
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