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Vulnerability and Clientelism

Gustavo Bobonis, Paul Gertler, Marco Gonzalez-Navarro () and Simeon Nichter

Working Papers from University of Toronto, Department of Economics

Abstract: Political clientelism is often deemed to undermine democratic accountability and representation. This study argues that economic vulnerability causes citizens to participate in clientelism. We test this hypothesis with a randomized control trial that reduced household vulnerability through a development intervention: constructing residential water cisterns in drought-prone areas of Northeast Brazil. This exogenous reduction in vulnerability significantly decreased requests for private benefits from local politicians, especially by citizens likely to be involved in clientelist relationships. We also link program beneficiaries to granular voting outcomes, and show that this reduction in vulnerability decreased votes for incumbent mayors, who typically have more resources to engage in clientelism. Our evidence points to a persistent reduction in clientelism, given that findings are observed not only during an election campaign, but also a full year later.

Keywords: Vulnerability; Clientelism; Voting. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: P16 O10 O12 O54 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm and nep-dev
Date: 2017-07-11
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