Development via Administrative Redistricting: Evidence from Brazil

82 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2018 Last revised: 15 Oct 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 to examine if, and how, administrative unit splits have long-run effects on local development in Brazil. Using a rich panel of administrative and spatial data, we compare municipalities whose requests to split were approved to those with unapproved requests due to a unique policy change curbing the creation of new municipalities. We find that splitting leads to an expansion of the public sector and improvements in public service delivery in new municipalities without generating significant spillover effects on the formal local economy. We show that splitting reduces physical remoteness to the headquarters and allows new municipalities to better adapt public 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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