Patronage in the Allocation of Public Sector Jobs
Posted: 29 Mar 2017 Last revised: 3 Nov 2017
Date Written: July 15, 2017
This paper studies the extent, nature, and consequences of patronage – the preferential access to public sector jobs granted to political supporters of the ruling party – in modern public personnel practices. We build a novel, longitudinal dataset that follows the labor market careers of more than 2,000,000 political supporters of Brazilian local parties over the 1997-2014 period. Estimates from a regression discontinuity design exploiting close municipal elections indicate that providing electoral or financial support to the ruling party increases the probability of being employed in the public sector by 10.5 percentage points (a 47% increase). This preferential access is present at all layers of the public sector hierarchy. As political support is the main determinant of public sector careers, patronage decreases screening on qualifications: a supporter’s public sector employment probability and earnings are monotonically increasing in the amount of votes or money contributed to the ruling party; at the same time, supporters are screened less on education and on a measure of personal ability derived from individual private sector earnings. We find evidence inconsistent with alternative interpretations as important drivers of this preferential treatment. Finally, we show that an increase in the extent of patronage within a municipality is correlated with worse local public service delivery.
Keywords: patronage, clientelism, politicians, bureaucrats, campaign contributions, political connections
JEL Classification: D72, D73, H40, H70, H83, J24, J30, J45, O10, O43
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation