Social Engineering in the Tropics: Case Study Evidence from East Congo

Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Macartan Humphreys, CDEP Student Affiliate Raul Sanchez de la Sierra, and Peter van der Windt of New York Univeristy Abu Dhabi.

Many international interventions try to alter social structures without seeking to change economic fundamentals. The theory is that brief exposure to good institutions leads directly to subsequent adoption. This research examines this idea exploiting random assignment of a community driven reconstruction intervention to 1250 villages in Congo. A cash transfer activity later implemented in all areas is used to measure governance behavior and no evidence of effects across multiple measures is found. Unique in its use of an unconstrained behavioral measure and unusual in scale, this study suggests that current conceptualizations of local governance structures, and strategies to alter them, are misguided.

This project is part of CDEP’s Politics, Institutions and Conflict Initiative.