When Clients become Citizens: Intermediation and Claim-Making in Mexico
My dissertation examines why individuals often turn to politicians and clientelistic brokers in order to obtain access to welfare programs –and under what conditions the “clientelistic bargain” can be broken. It argues that citizens depend upon clientelistic intermediaries because obtaining benefits from the state directly is informationally, transactionally, and psychologically costly. I argue that clientelistic intermediation limits the formation of citizenship by inhibiting citizens from learning about the state and diminishing individuals’ sense of self-efficacy and political autonomy. However, this pattern can be broken if the barriers to directly claiming benefits are lessened, allowing citizens to opt out of the clientelistic bargain. I test my theoretical argument in a large-scale randomized control trial administered across 150 villages in the Mexican state of Yucatán. The experiment examines how the provision of non-clientelistic access to welfare programs via local intermediaries trained to provide information about welfare eligibility and applications —at no cost— alters citizens’ behavior and attitudes toward clientelism..