Development via Administrative Redistricting: Evidence from Brazil

80 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2018 Last revised: 24 May 2021

See all articles by Ricardo Dahis

Ricardo Dahis

Northwestern University

Christiane Szerman

Princeton University

Date Written: May 20, 2021


We exploit a large redistricting episode in Brazil to examine if, and how, administrative unit splits impact local development. Using a rich panel of administrative and spatial data, our difference-in-differences strategy compares municipalities whose re- quests to split were approved to those whose requests were left unapproved due to a unique policy change that curbed the creation of new municipalities. We find that splitting leads to an expansion of the public sector, growth in economic activity, and improvements in public service delivery in new municipalities. Original municipalities remain unaffected. Results suggest that new municipalities adapt policies to local preferences. Our findings inform the equity-efficiency trade-off embedded in decentralization reforms worldwide.

Keywords: redistricting, decentralization, political boundaries, elite capture, development

JEL Classification: O12

Suggested Citation

Dahis, Ricardo and Szerman, Christiane, Development via Administrative Redistricting: Evidence from Brazil (May 20, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Ricardo Dahis (Contact Author)

Northwestern University ( email )

2211 Campus Drive
Office 3386
Evanston, IL 60208
United States


Christiane Szerman

Princeton University ( email )

Department of Economics
Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States

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