Rewards from public office and the selection of politicians by parties

TitleRewards from public office and the selection of politicians by parties
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsF. Cerina, LG. Deidda
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Economy

We investigate the relationship between the quality of politicians, defined in terms of their competence (skills), and rewards from public office in a game between parties and citizens in which parties play a crucial role in the selection of politicians. Parties shape the selection of politicians by manipulating information about the quality of their candidates. An increase in the rewards from public offices leads to two opposing effects on the average quality of politicians. The first is a selection effect, whereby more skilled citizens enter politics, leading to an increase in average quality. The second is a manipulation effect, as parties have the incentive to further manipulate information to increase the probability of election for their unskilled candidates, from whom they can extract higher rents in the form of service duties. We find that the second effect dominates when i. parties’ costs of manipulating information are sufficiently low; ii. even in the absence of manipulation, the quality of information available to citizens about candidates is sufficiently poor; and iii. the net gains from becoming a politician for unskilled citizens are sufficiently larger than those for skilled citizens. These findings provide a rationale for the ambiguous sign of the empirical relationship between the quality and pay of politicians.

KeywordsInformation manipulation, Political parties, Public office rewards, Quality of politicians, Selection