Do Elections Always Motivate Incumbents? Experimentation vs. Career Concerns


Ben Lockwood ; Eric Le Borgne

Publication Date:

March 1, 2003

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Disclaimer: This Working Paper should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF.The views expressed in this Working Paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy. Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to further debate


This paper studies a principal-agent model of the relationship between an incumbent officeholder and the electorate, where the officeholder is initially uninformed about her ability. If officeholder effort and ability interact in the "production function" that determines performance in office, then an officeholder has an incentive to experiment-that is, raise effort so that performance becomes a more accurate signal of her ability. Elections reduce the experimentation effect, and the reduction in this effect may more than offset the positive "career-concerns" effect of elections on effort. Moreover, when this occurs, appointment of officeholders may Pareto-dominate elections.


Working Paper No. 2003/057



Publication Date:

March 1, 2003



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