Anderson Frey

Cash Transfers, Clientelism, and Political Enfranchisement: Evidence from Brazil
Friday, 15 January 2016 - 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm
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Yazid Dissou
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Free of charge
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  This paper uses data from Brazil’s Bolsa Família, the largest conditional cash transfers program in the world, to examine how income transfers that are shielded from the influence of political intermediaries affect local politics in an environment plagued by clientelism and vote buying. The paper exploits a nonparametric multivariate regression discontinuity design and employs a novel identification strategy for the cross-municipal variation in program coverage. Estimates show that transfers trigger a reduction in incumbency advantage, an increase in both political competition and the quality of candidates, and a reduction in the support for clientelistic parties. Transfers also lead incumbents to shift spending toward redistributive health and education services. The theoretical mechanism proposed here shows that transfers reduce the marginal utility of voters coming from cash payments, and thereby decreases the ability of incumbents to replace public good distribution with vote buying. To compensate for the vote loss, incumbents channel resources away from clientelism and into public goods.