Choosing Clientelism: Political Competition, Poverty, and Social Welfare Policy in Argentina
35 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 15 Apr 2013
Date Written: 2009
Why do some local governments condition the delivery of goods and services to citizens on individual political behavior, while others do not? In this paper, I outline a theory of variation in clientelism that focuses on differences in the incentives politicians face to use clientelism depending on voter poverty and levels of political competition. I then test this theory using an original dataset on municipal-level clientelism in Argentina. The results of statistical analysis suggest that the relationship between clientelism and political competition is not a straightforward one.
I find substantial support for the hypothesis that the relationship between political opposition and clientelism is contingent on levels of voter poverty. Where poverty is limited, increasing levels of opposition are associated with a decreased likelihood of clientelism. In contrast, where poverty is widespread, high levels of political opposition are associated with a high probability of clientelism. These results suggest that the electoral costs of clientelism, not only its benefits, shape the choices and behavior of reelection-seeking politicians.
Keywords: clientelism, social welfare policy, local politics, Argentina
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