Political Science Department
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093
NBER Working Papers and Publications
|July 2017||Vulnerability and Clientelism|
with Gustavo J. Bobonis, Paul Gertler, Marco Gonzalez-Navarro: w23589
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 cliente...