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IFS/STICERD/UCL Development Economics Work In Progress Seminar Series

Optimal Assignment of Bureaucrats: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Tax Collectors in the DRC

Jonathan Weigel (LSE), joint with Augustin Bergeron (Harvard), Pedro Bessone (MIT), John Kabeya Kabeya (DGRKOC), and Gabriel Tourek (MIT/JPAL)

Thursday 20 May 2021 13:00 - 14:00

This event will take place online.

Many of our seminars and public events this year will continue as online seminars or as online and in person. Please check our website listings and Twitter feed @STICERD_LSE for updates.

Unless otherwise specified, current restrictions mean in-person seminars are only open to members of the LSE community (those with a valid LSE ID card).

Those unable to join the seminars in-person are welcome to participate via zoom.

About this event

States regularly assign agents to teams and postings, yet rarely with the explicit goal of boosting public sector productivity. This paper asks whether a low-capacity state can improve performance through the optimal assignment of bureaucrats. We study the two-stage random assignment of property tax collectors (i) into teams, and (ii) to neighborhoods in a large Congolese city. The optimal assignment involves positive assortative matching on both dimensions: high (low) ability collectors should be paired together, and high (low) ability teams should be paired with high (low) payment propensity households. We provide suggestive evidence that the mechanism involves greater skill transmission between high-ability collectors. Implementing the optimal assignment would result in a 36% increase in tax compliance. By contrast, the government would need to replace 62% of lower-ability collectors with high-ability collectors to achieve a similar increase.

This seminar series is jointly organized by the IFS, STICERD, and UCL.

IFS/STICERD/UCL Development Economics Work In Progress seminars are held on Thursdays in term time at 12:30-14:00, ONLINE, unless specified otherwise.

Seminar organisers: Oriana Bandiera (STICERD, LSE), Imran Rasul (UCL), Britta Augsburg (IFS) and Jonathan Weigel (LSE).

For further information please contact Lubala Chibwe, either by email:

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This event will take place online.