Working Paper No. 1133

Who Becomes a Politican?

Published: September 15, 2016Pages: 58Keywords: Political Selection; Political Represenation; Family Background; CompetenceJEL-codes: H10; H70

Who Becomes a Politican? Ernesto Dal Bó, Frederico Finan, Olle Folke, Torsten Persson and Johanna Rickne

Can a democracy attract competent leaders, while attaining broad representation? Economic models suggest that free-riding incentives and lower opportunity costs give the less competent a comparative advantage at entering political life.

Also, if elites have more human capital, selecting on competence may lead to uneven representation. We examine patterns of political selection among the universe of municipal politicians in Sweden using extraordinarily rich data on competence traits and social background for the entire population.

We document four new facts:

  • First, politicians are on average signi cantly smarter and better leaders than the population they represent.
  • Second, the representation of social background, whether measured by intergenerational earnings or social class, is remarkably even.
  • Third, there is at best a weak tradeo in selection between competence and representation.
  • Fourth, both material and intrinsic motives matter in selection, as does screening by political parties.


Johanna Rickne


Mob: +46 70 433 7388

Olle Folke


Mob: +46 70 367 0242

Sick of Inequality?

An Introduction to the Relationship between Inequality and Health

Sick of Inequality.jpg

In this book Andreas Bergh, Therese Nilsson, IFN and Lund University, and Daniel Waldenström, IFN and Paris School of Economics, France, review the latest research on the relationship between inequality and health. What does inequality mean for our health? Does increasing income inequality affect outcomes such as obesity, life expectancy and subjective well-being?


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