How Do the Affluent Influence Authoritarian Responsiveness? Theory and Evidence from Urban China
58 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2022 Last revised: 2 Nov 2023
Date Written: October 23, 2023
While scholarship on advanced democracies has documented a prevailing unequal political responsiveness driven by the affluent's influence through electoral mechanisms, we still know little about the existence and magnitude of such bias in authoritarian countries that lack competitive elections. This paper shows an implicit privilege of the wealthy in an authoritarian context. Matching unique administrative data on municipal service records with apartment complex-level housing prices in downtown Shanghai, we demonstrate that the local government resolves cases more swiftly for residents living in pricier areas. To understand the mechanism, we conducted semistructured interviews and proposed a simple model illustrating that the implicit bias arises from the unique incentives facing bureaucrats and political leaders under authoritarian rule. We also provide evidence that excludes several alternative explanations, including issue heterogeneity, verbal signals, and local funding discrepancies.
Keywords: Government Responsiveness, Bureaucracy, Duality, Housing Price, Authoritarianism, China
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