Clientelism, State Capacity and Economic Development: A Cross-National Study

50 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 27 Sep 2011

Date Written: 2011


What accounts for cross-national variation in political clientelism? We consider two prominent explanations, economic wealth and state capacity, and test them on a new dataset of political clientelism. Although economic wealth is a strong predictor of contemporaneous clientelism, especially for developing polities, our theory emphasizes a developmental threshold beyond which the effect of historical state capacity replaces economic wealth as the primary predictor of cross-national variation in clientelism. Voters in countries that have surpassed this income threshold find clientelistic goods relatively unattractive if the bureaucracy has already established a credible reputation for delivering public goods over time. Supportive evidence for the theory is found in an examination of differences in clientelism across eighty-eight countries.

Keywords: clientelism, economic development, state capacity

Suggested Citation

Bustikova, Lenka and Corduneanu-Huci, Cristina, Clientelism, State Capacity and Economic Development: A Cross-National Study (2011). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper (revised and presented at: MPSA 2011, Duke 2011), Available at SSRN:

Lenka Bustikova (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

Coor Hall
P.O. Box 873902
Tempe, AZ 85287
United States


Cristina Corduneanu-Huci

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

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