Patronage in the Allocation of Public Sector Jobs

89 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2017 Last revised: 20 Nov 2017

Date Written: October 30, 2017


This paper studies patronage - the use of public sector jobs to reward political supporters of the party in power - in Brazilian local governments. We exploit longitudinal data on the universe of Brazilian public sector employees over the 1997-2014 period, matched with information on more than 2,000,000 political supporters of Brazilian local parties. Using a regression discontinuity design that generates exogenous variation in individuals' connection to the party in power, we first document the presence of significant political favoritism in the allocation of jobs throughout the entire Brazilian public sector hierarchy: being a political supporter of the party in power increases the probability of having a public sector job by 10.5 percentage points (a 47% increase). Leveraging detailed information on supporters' and jobs' characteristics, we then show that patronage is the leading explanation behind this favoritism: jobs in the public sector are used as reward for political supporters. We find that patronage has significant real consequences for selection to public employment, as the amount of support provided to the party in power substitutes qualifications as determinant of hiring decisions. Finally, consistent with this negative impact on the quality of the selected public workers, we present evidence suggesting that patronage practices are associated with a worse provision of public services.

Keywords: patronage, clientelism, politicians, bureaucrats, campaign contributions, political connections

JEL Classification: D72, D73, H40, H70, H83, J24, J30, J45, O10, O43

Suggested Citation

Colonnelli, Emanuele and Teso, Edoardo and Prem, Mounu, Patronage in the Allocation of Public Sector Jobs (October 30, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Emanuele Colonnelli (Contact Author)

Stanford University, Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Stanford, CA
United States

Edoardo Teso

Northwestern University - Department of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences (MEDS) ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Mounu Prem

Universidad del Rosario ( email )

Casa Pedro Fermín
Calle 14 # 4-69

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views