Voter education campaigns often aim to increase voter participation and political accountability. We follow randomized interventions implemented nationwide during the 2009 Mozambican elections using a free newspaper, leaflets and text messaging. We investigate whether treatment effects were transmitted through social networks (kinship and chatting) or geographical proximity. For individuals personally targeted by the campaign, we estimate the reinforcement effect of proximity to other targeted individuals. For untargeted individuals we estimate the diffusion of the campaign depending on proximity to targeted individuals. We find evidence for both effects, similar across the different treatments and across the different connectedness measures. We observe that the treatments worked through networks by raising the levels of information and interest about the election, in line with the average treatments effects. However, differently from those average effects, we find negative network effects of voter education on voter participation. We interpret this result as a free-riding effect, likely to occur for costly actions.
Marcel Fafchamps is Professor of Development Economics at Oxford University, a Professional Fellow at Mansfield College and the Deputy Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies. Fafchamps’ research is focused primarily on institutions that enable exchange, including risk-coping strategies, market institutions, intra-household allocation and the allocation of economic activity across space, with a concentration on the regions of Africa and South Asia. He is also interested in spatial networks and social networks from a methodological perspective. His scholarship on the topic of market institutions is summarized in Market Institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa, (MIT Press, 2004), which his work on risk coping is addressed in Rural Poverty, Risk, and Development (Elgar Press, 2003). Fafchamps studied law and economics at the Université Catholique de Louvain and spent nearly five years working on rural development in Africa for the International Labour Organization before earning his Ph.D. in agricultural economics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1989. He taught development economics at Stanford from 1989 until 1998.