Distributive Politics Around the World

Posted: 15 May 2013

See all articles by Miriam A. Golden

Miriam A. Golden

European University Institute; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Brian K. Min

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science

Date Written: May 2013


We inventory more than 150 studies of distributive politics in more than three dozen countries other than the United States. We organize existing studies under two theories: theories of democratic accountability and theories of government responsiveness. Studies that concern democratic accountability conceptualize distributive allocations as attempts by politicians to protect themselves electorally by targeting specific groups of voters. We identify four subsets: (a) studies of whether politicians target goods to core or swing voters; (b) studies of general political favoritism in targeting government goods; (c) studies of whether goods are disbursed according to the electoral cycle; and (d) studies of whether elected officials gain votes from the disbursement of government goods. We illustrate each with examples from the literature. We then discuss distributive politics as responsiveness to the median voter. This perspective entails a focus on the redistributive consequences of government policy and investigates whether special interests capture a disproportionate share of goods coming from government. To illustrate the utility of both perspectives, we analyze original data on electricity provision in India's largest state.

Suggested Citation

Golden, Miriam A. and Min, Brian K., Distributive Politics Around the World (May 2013). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 16, pp. 73-99, 2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2265159 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-polisci-052209-121553

Miriam A. Golden (Contact Author)

European University Institute ( email )

Via dei Roccettini 9
San Domenico di Fiesole
Florence, 50014
50014 (Fax)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ( email )

Department of Political Science
Box 951472
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1361
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.golden.polisci.ucla.edu

Brian K. Min

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

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