Does the State Crowd Out Non-State Institutions? A field experiment on community policing and gender inequality in Papua New Guinea

Research Method

Blocked and clustered field experiment with 1,383 respondents in 39 villages.


Bougainville, Papua New Guinea




Bougainville Police Service, New Zealand Police, J-PAL (funders)

Research Question

Does the expansion of the state policing undermine or reinforce incumbent non-state institutions, and how does this process affect the provision of order?


Why do traditional authorities coexist alongside state institutions in some contexts, while in others state services appear to have crowded out non-state competitors? In answer to this question, this study takes advantage of a unique opportunity to examine an exogenous shock to the capacity and availability of state policing services in formerly stateless areas. In late 2015, remote villages in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, were assigned at random to have or not have a uniformed community police officer permanently present in the village. In a household-level survey carried out over eight months after the community police have been working in the selected communities, I find no evidence that the expansion of state services crowds out non-state institutions. Rather, the presence of community police widens an already existing gender gap in appraisals of police, with men shifting toward customary authorities and women towards the state. Demand for both services increases as a result of the state's expansion. There is some evidence that this complementarity improves order: respondents are less likely to perceive theft, alcoholism or domestic violence as prevalent in their community.