Associate Professor of Business Administration, Marvin Bower Fellow
Lakshmi Iyer is an economist in the Business, Government and the International Economy (BGIE) Unit at Harvard Business School. Her primary research fields are political economy and development economics, with a special emphasis on property rights and the distribution of political power within societies. Her research has examined historical and current property rights institutions in developing countries such as India, Vietnam, China and the Philippines. She has also studied many dimensions of the distribution of political power within emerging market countries, including the legacy of colonial rule, the division of authority between politicians and bureaucrats, the determinants of conflict and the consequences of female political representation.
Lakshmi Iyer teaches Institutions, Macroeconomics and the Global Economy (IMaGE) in the second year MBA curriculum, and holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Traveling Agents: Political Change and Bureaucratic Turnover in India
We develop a framework to empirically examine how politicians with electoral pressures control bureaucrats with career concerns and the consequent implications for bureaucrats' career investments. Unique microlevel 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.
Caste and Entrepreneurship in India
It is now widely accepted that the lower castes have risen in Indian politics. Has there been a corresponding change in the economy? Using comprehensive data on enterprise ownership from the Economic Censuses of 1990, 1998 and 2005, we document substantial caste differences in entrepreneurship across India. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are significantly under-represented in the ownership of enterprises and the share of the workforce employed by them. These differences are widespread across all states, have decreased very modestly between 1990 and 2005, and cannot be attributed to broad differences in access to physical or human capital.