The Political Economy of Russian Gubernatorial Election and Appointment
Political and economic outcomes depend, in part, on the quality of the officials making policy. Many scholars argue that free and fair elections are the best method for selecting competent officials. Others, however, argue that elections can lead to the selection of amateurs, demagogues, and political sycophants. Under this view, sub-national officials should be appointed by centralized planners who are insulated from local popular pressures. In this paper, we use original data on the biographies of Russian regional governors to determine whether the backgrounds of governors elected between 1992 and 2004 differ from the backgrounds of appointed governors post-2004. We find that the two groups are surprisingly similar along many dimensions. Elected and appointed governors have similar career backgrounds, ages, educational profiles, and ethnicities. But there are some important differences as well. Elected governors are more likely to have held elected office and be from the region where they serve. Appointed governors are also more likely to be federal bureaucrats, hold a graduate degree, and have education in economics. Finding that the selection mechanism explains only a small portion of the variance in governor backgrounds, we conclude the paper by speculating on other possible explanations for variation in governor background.