Article | Review of Economics and Statistics

Traveling Agents: Political Change and Bureaucratic Turnover in India

by Lakshmi Iyer and Anandi Mani


We develop a framework to empirically examine how politicians with electoral pressures control bureaucrats with career concerns as well as the consequences for bureaucrats' career investments. Unique micro-level data on Indian bureaucrats support our key predictions. Politicians use frequent reassignments (transfers) across posts of varying importance to control bureaucrats. High-skilled bureaucrats face less frequent political transfers and lower variability in the importance of their posts. We find evidence of two alternative paths to career success: officers of higher initial ability are more likely to invest in skill, but caste affinity to the politician's party base also helps secure important positions.

Keywords: Framework; Government and Politics; Investment; Competency and Skills; Personal Development and Career; Rank and Position; Forecasting and Prediction; India;


Iyer, Lakshmi, and Anandi Mani. "Traveling Agents: Political Change and Bureaucratic Turnover in India." Review of Economics and Statistics 94, no. 3 (August 2012): 723–739.