Value for Money? Community Targeting in Vote-Buying and Politician Accountability
Community targeting of vote payments — defined as the saturation of entire neighborhoods with cash prior to elections — is widespread in the developing world. In this paper, we utilize laboratory experiments conducted in the U.S. and Kenya to demonstrate that, relative to individual targeting, a vote-buying regime that distributes payments widely renders voters more tolerant of politician rent-seeking, and increases the level of politician rent-seeking observed in equilibrium. The most parsimonious model of preferences consistent with these patterns is a model in which both politicians and voters are characterized by multifaceted social preferences, encompassing reciprocity, altruism, and inequality aversion.
Thanks to the laboratory staff at the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory and the Busara Laboratory, particularly Nina Cohodes, Chaning Jang, and James Vancel, for their assistance in data collection. Thanks to Vincenzo di Maro, Johannes Haushofer, Sarah Jacobson, Gautam Rao, and Tanya Rosenblat for detailed comments and seminar participants at Williams, the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics Summer Forum, the World Bank, USAID, the NBER Summer Institute, Berkeley - Haas, Yale, Swarthmore, Dartmouth, and Columbia University for useful feedback. We would also like to thank the funders that provided support for the project, the Harvard Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and USAID, through the Democracy Fellows and Grants Program implemented by IIE. This working paper was previously circulated under the titles “Value for money in purchasing votes: A lab experiment in the field” and “Value for money? Vote-buying and politician accountability in the laboratory”. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Corresponding author: Jessica Leight, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20016. email@example.com
Leight, Jessica & Foarta, Dana & Pande, Rohini & Ralston, Laura, 2020. "Value for money? Vote-buying and politician accountability," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 190(C). citation courtesy of