Looking for greener pastures: Examining the effect of graduate politicians on forest cover in India
Forests are vital for environmental and health benefits, making forest management and sustainable development a top priority for policymakers. While previous research has explored the impact of political regimes and politicians on deforestation, the influence of educated political leaders on afforestation efforts remains largely unexplored. Using a comprehensive dataset that combines remote sensing data and temporal election information, we investigate the role of graduate politicians in promoting higher forest cover in India. Our findings reveal a significant increase in forest cover in constituencies led by graduate politicians. This increase in forest cover does not lead to a decline in economic activity, as measured by night lights data. Furthermore, we do not find any evidence of credit reallocation from sectors like agriculture, transport, or mining that might negatively affect forest cover. Instead, educated politicians effectively leverage the rural public works programmes to promote initiatives directly linked to forest plantation and wasteland development.
(With Upasak Das and Shreya Biswas)