Tanu Kumar

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Department:
Political Science
Term:
Summer 2017

Within every country, there is wide variation in whether and how citizens choose to participate in politics; individuals unaware of the content of policies may live alongside those who actively seek to shape governance through voting, lobbying, or running for office. What accounts for this variation? I test the idea that property ownership is a cause of active citizenship among low-income voters in urban India. Thus far, scholars have described political activity among individuals in India and other developing countries as exchanging votes for cash or in-kind services. In contrast, I predict that property ownership might affect citizen engagement in policymaking in such contexts, potentially enabling the understanding of a type of voter behavior not considered by current theories of vote buying. The main reasons that this would be so is that unlike non-owners, property owners would be concerned with changes in property value and the benefits received in exchange for property taxes, both of which are affected by the policy-making process. I will test my hypotheses by surveying winners and non-winners of a low-income housing lottery in Mumbai, Maharashtra. This naturally occurring experiment is a rare chance to identify the effect of property ownership on political behavior at a time when rapid urbanization in the developing world is leading to shortages of affordable housing and opportunities for property ownership.