Econometrica: Mar 2021, Volume 89, Issue 2

Information Technology and Government Decentralization: Experimental Evidence from Paraguay
p. 677-701

Ernesto Dal Bó, Frederico Finan, Nicholas Y. Li, Laura Schechter

Standard models of hierarchy assume that agents and middle managers are better informed than principals. We estimate the value of the informational advantage held by supervisors—middle managers—when ministerial leadership—the principal—introduced a new monitoring technology aimed at improving the performance of agricultural extension agents (AEAs) in rural Paraguay. Our approach employs a novel experimental design that elicited treatment‐priority rankings from supervisors before randomization of treatment. We find that supervisors have valuable information—they prioritize AEAs who would be more responsive to the monitoring treatment. We develop a model of monitoring under different scales of treatment roll‐out and different treatment allocation rules. We semiparametrically estimate marginal treatment effects (MTEs) to demonstrate that the value of information and the benefits to decentralizing treatment decisions depend crucially on the sophistication of the principal and on the scale of roll‐out.

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