University of Gothenburg

The QoG Best Paper Award

The Quality of Government (QoG) Institute´s Best Paper Award is an annual prize awarded to a paper on a Quality of Government related topic, demonstrating outstanding research based on its theoretical and empirical contributions.

Previous QoG Best Paper Award Winners


2022 Quality of Government´s Best Paper Award

Gustav Agneman, Kasper Brandt, Christoffer Cappelen & David Sjöberg,

Department of Political Science, Lund University
Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen
Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen
Independent researcher

for their paper “The Uneven Reach of the State: A Novel Approach to Mapping Local State Presence.

Abstract: The ability of states to exercise authority often varies considerably within their borders. Yet, we lack good empirical measures capturing subnational variation in the state’s territorial reach. In this paper, we develop a measure of local state presence for all five kilometer grid cells across Sub-Saharan Africa. The measure builds on geocoded survey data on local state presence, which we predict and extrapolate in a machine learning model using readily available data on the costs and benefits of capacity building across space. We showcase the usefulness of measuring state presence at a local level by employing the index as a moderating factor in the relationship between oil wealth and violent conflict and show that areas with higher levels of state presence face lower risks of conflict outbreak due to exogenous oil wealth shocks.


2021 Quality of Government´s Best Paper Award

Diego Romero, Duke University, for his paper “Unpacking Bribery: Petty Corruption and Favor Exchanges”.

Abstract: The incidence of petty corruption in public service delivery varies greatly across citizens and geography. This paper proposes a novel explanation for citizen engagement in collusive forms of petty corruption. It is rooted in the social context in which citizen-public official interactions take place. I argue that social proximity and network centrality provide the two key enforcement mechanisms that sustain favor exchanges among socially connected individuals. Bribery, as a collusive arrangement between a citizen and a public official, relies on the same enforcement mechanisms. Using an original dataset from a household survey conducted in Guatemala, the analysis shows that social proximity and centrality allow citizens to obtain privileges through implicit favor exchanges and illicit payments. These effects go beyond simply increasing the frequency of contact with public officials and are not driven by better access to information about the bribery market.


2020 Quality of Government´s Best Paper Award

Martin Ottmann, School of Government, University of Birmingham & Felix Haass, the Department of Political Science, University of Oslo for their paper "The Effect of Wartime Legacies on Electoral Mobilization after Civil War".

Abstract: Democracy depends on free and fair elections. Especially in societies emerging from civil war, the way how candidates conduct electoral campaigns determines the viability of politics through votes instead of violence. Yet, our understanding of how former rebels generate electoral support after civil war is limited. We argue that the organizational legacies of rebellion make clientelistic targeting of peace dividends an effective strategy to mobilize electoral support after civil war. We expect that prior to post-conflict elections, former rebels will target benefits to areas of wartime support; use wartime military networks as brokers to deliver those benefits; and exploit discretionary control over peace dividends to circumvent oversight when allocating electoral benefits. We combine original geospatial data on timing and location of over 2,000 tsunami aid projects with information from village-level surveys by the World Bank in post-civil war Aceh, Indonesia, to test these hypotheses. Results from difference-in-difference models suggest that wartime legacies do indeed shape how rebels capture and reallocate reconstruction aid for electoral purposes. This finding has important implications for our understanding of democracy after war and clientelism in fragile contexts.

“The Effect of Wartime Legacies on Electoral Mobilization after Civil War”.


2019 Quality of Government´s Best Paper Award

Paola Proietti (Gran Sasso Science Institute, L’Aquila, Italy) and Davide Luca (Bennett Institute of Public Policy, Cambridge University) for the paper “Hosting to skim. Organized Crime and the Reception of Asylum Seekers in Italy”.

Abstract: Political crises and conflicts are pushing millions of asylum seekers to move in search of international protection. This paper investigates the link between organized crime and Italy’s publicly-funded asylum seekers’ reception centers. We gather municipal data on the location of reception centers and mafia activities. We exploit exogenous variation at municipal level to instrument mafia intensity, and provide robust evidence of how the presence of mafia affects the likelihood of hosting a reception center. Statistical evidence and in–depth expert interviews suggest that organized crime is correlated to the use of less transparent procedures in the tenders for the set-up of such centres.


2018 Quality of Government´s Best Paper Award

Maria Carreri, UCSD School of Global Policy and Strategy, for her paper "Can Good Politicians Compensate for Bad Institutions?"

Abstract: Can competent political leaders bring significant policy changes to communities otherwise doomed by “bad” informal institutions? This question has remained unanswered due to the lack of a convincing measure of politicians’ competence. I develop a novel survey technique to measure the administrative competence of executive politicians and apply it in interviews to 306 Italian mayors. I study the impact of mayors’ administrative competence on the policies they enact using a difference-in-differences approach. Results show that more competent mayors are associated with better policies but the association is only present in cases where the quality of informal institutions is low. In these municipalities, the election of more competent mayors translates into a more effective use of funds, an increase in long-term investments, and better service provision without an increase in taxes. Results hold across different measures of institutional quality.

"Can Good Politicians Compensate for Bad Institutions?"


2017 Quality of Government´s Best Paper Award

Ben Pasquale and Saad Gultzar, Harvard Kennedy School, for their paper “Politicians, Bureaucrats, and Development: Evidence from India”

Abstract: When do politicians prompt bureaucrats to provide effective services? Leveraging the uneven overlap of jurisdictions in India, we compare bureaucrats supervised by a single political principal with those supervised by multiple politicians. With an original dataset of nearly half a million villages, we find that implementation of India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the largest employment program in the world, is substantially better where bureaucrats answer to a single politician. Regression discontinuity estimates help increase confidence that this result is causal. Our findings suggest that politicians face strong incentives to motivate bureaucrats as long as they internalize the benefits from doing so. In contrast to a large literature on the deleterious effects of political interventions, our results show that political influence may be more favorable to development than is commonly assumed.

Politicians, Bureaucrats, and Development: Evidence from India