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Evidence-Based Policy-Making Seminar (EBPM): Kinship networks, local elections, and female representation: Evidence from Nepali voter registration data

portrait of Simon Heß
Wednesday, April 10, 2024, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm

The EBPM Seminar Series at the Department of Public Policy brings external academics and practitioners to discuss their ongoing research. This event series prioritizes understanding how data, observations, and ultimately evidence is approached by each researcher. 


We use the universe of Nepali voter registration records to examine how social networks shape local-level elections. Using information on individual-level kinship ties among 13.9 million registered voters in 2017, we show how connectedness of individuals to other registered voters and politicians matters for selection into politics. We first establish that political candidates chosen by their party are better connected to voters and other politicians. Further, we show that this correlation is not due to correlated unobservables. Using a regression discontinuity design, we establish a causal link from the political success of one person to the candidacy of their relatives. We show that relatives of bare winners in previous elections are more than twice as likely to be chosen as the party's candidate for female-reserved seats than relatives of bare losers. To study mechanisms, we investigate effect heterogeneity and find that young women and in-laws are more likely to run if they reside in the same village as the male politician in their family, evidence consistent with women serving as proxies to fill low-ranking female-reserved seats. We also find limited evidence that successful relatives serve as role models that inspire women to run for office.

About the Speaker

Simon Heß is an applied microeconomist interested in economic development and causal inference and his research focuses on social and economic networks and on policy evaluations. He held prior positions at the University of Vienna and the Goethe University in Frankfurt, where he also obtained his PhD in 2020. Since March 2024 he is an assistant professor for economic development at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Website: