Ministers Engage in Favoritism Too

41 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2021 Last revised: 29 Jun 2022

See all articles by Philine Widmer

Philine Widmer

University of St.Gallen

Noémie Zurlinden

University of St. Gallen

Date Written: May 23, 2022


To study favoritism by cabinet members in 36 African countries, we hand-collect birthplace information for all cabinet members (2001-2015). Focusing on health outcomes, we provide causal evidence of favoritism by health ministers and, less so, key ministers. Neonates' and infants' mortality is lower when the current health minister originates from their region, especially for children of vulnerable (rural-based or uneducated) mothers. Co-regional health ministers also increase healthcare access at birth, particularly for vulnerable mothers. Thus, healthcare access likely explains part of the mortality-lowering effects. We find evidence for ethnic motives playing a role in favoritism but not (short-run) electoral motives.

Funding Information: None to declare.

Conflict of Interests: None to declare.

Keywords: infant mortality, child health, favoritism, political capture, patronage, corruption, Africa, georeferenced data, spatial analysis

JEL Classification: D73, I10, I18, J13, R11

Suggested Citation

Widmer, Philine and Zurlinden, Noémie, Ministers Engage in Favoritism Too (May 23, 2022). Journal of Public Economics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Philine Widmer (Contact Author)

University of St.Gallen ( email )

Bodanstrasse 8
St.Gallen, 9000

Noémie Zurlinden

University of St. Gallen ( email )


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