May 2023

IZA DP No. 16131: How Do Political Connections of Firms Matter during an Economic Crisis?

Yutong Chen, Gaurav Chiplunkar, Sheetal Sekhri, Anirban Sen, Aaditeshwar Seth

We use a new machine learning-enabled, social network based measurement technique to assemble a novel dataset of firms' political connections in India. Leveraging this data along with a long panel of detailed financial transactions of firms, we study how political connections matter during an economic downturn. Using a synthetic difference-in-differences framework, we find that connected firms had 8-10% higher income, sales, and TFPR gains that were persistent for over a three-year period following the crisis. We unpack various mechanisms and show that connected firms were able to delay their short-term payments to suppliers and creditors, delay debt and interest payments, decrease expensive long-term borrowings from banks in favor of short-term non-collateral ones, and increase investments in productive assets such as computers and software. Our method to determine political connections is portable to other applications and contexts.