Patronage and Selection in Public Sector Organizations

81 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2017 Last revised: 10 Dec 2021

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 18, 2018


In all modern bureaucracies, politicians retain some discretion in public employment decisions, which may lead to frictions in the selection process if political connections substitute for individual competence. Relying on detailed matched employer-employee data on the universe of public employees in Brazil over 1997–2014, and on a regression discontinuity design in close electoral races, we establish three main findings. First, political connections are a key and quantitatively large determinant of employment in public organizations, for both bureaucrats and frontline providers. Second, patronage is an important mechanism behind this result. Third, political considerations lead to the selection of less competent individuals.

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 Prem, Mounu and Teso, Edoardo, Patronage and Selection in Public Sector Organizations (September 18, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Emanuele Colonnelli (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )


Mounu Prem

Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF) ( email )

Via Due Macelli, 73
Rome, 00187

Edoardo Teso

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

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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