Clients or Citizens: Intermediaries and Claim-Making in Mexico
In this book-length project, I argue that a fundamental cost of clientelist mediation is reflected in an individual’s inability to learn about the state, its bureaucracy and its processes. I take a citizen-centered perspective to explain the "clientelist bargain" - the exchange of political and electoral support for material benefits and services- that considers alternatives and constrains citizens face that leads them to opt to engage in clientelist relationships. My dissertation argues that individuals often turn to politicians and clientelist brokers in order to obtain access to welfare programs because obtaining benefits from the state directly is bureaucratically costly. I show that clientelist reciprocity networks mediate between citizens and the state, providing goods and benefits of even the most programmatic of social programs. At the individual level, I argue that clientelist mediation limits the formation of citizenship by inhibiting citizens from learning about the state. Clientelism affects feelings of social citizenship, diminishes citizens’ sense of self-efficacy, political autonomy, and hampers feelings of entitlement to government services.
However, this pattern can be broken if the barriers to directly claiming benefits are lessened, allowing citizens to opt out of the 'clientelist bargain'. I test my theoretical argument using data from more than 18 months of fieldwork in Mexico, more than 3 unique surveys to citizens, political elites and intermediaries and a large-scale randomized control trial implemented during four months and administered across 150 villages in the Mexican state of Yucatán. The experiment examines how the provision of non-clientelist 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.
When Clients Exit: Breaking the Clientelist Feedback Loop
Abstract: Why do individuals in the developing world turn to clientelist intermediaries to gain access to welfare benefits? How do these interactions impact political behavior? Existing theories view clientelist intermediaries—brokers who provide services in exchange for political support—as agents of politicians and political parties. In this paper, I argue that individuals rely on intermediaries because they face high bureaucratic transaction costs when directly making claims on the state; however, relying on intermediaries inhibits individuals from gaining useful bureaucratic know-how, further entrenching their dependency on clientelism in a clientelist feedback loop. A large- scale field experiment in rural Mexico that reduces the costliness of claim-making by providing a facilitator trained to assist citizens in applying for welfare programs tests this argument. I find that reducing the costs of direct claim-making nearly doubled the number of claims made through non-clientelist avenues. In addition, the intervention both weakened the belief that entitlements must be reciprocated with political support and diminished general approval of quid-pro-quo exchanges, two key norms that sustain clientelism. Reducing the costs that citizens face in making claims directly can weaken clientelism and bolster individuals’ political autonomy, strengthening citizenship.
Berinsky, Adam, Tesalia Rizzo, Leah Rosenzweig, and Elisha Heaps. (forthcoming). “Attribute Affinity: U.S. Natives' Attitudes Towards Immigrants.” Political Behavior.
Abstract: We examine the extent to which relevant social identity traits shared between two individuals—what we term “attribute affinity”—can moderate out-group hostility. We argue that in-group affinity is a powerful force in shaping preferences over potential immigrants. We focus on two closely related, yet distinct, dimensions of identity: religion and religiosity. Using evidence from three surveys that included two embedded experiments, we show that sharing strength in religious practice can diminish strong aversion to immigrants of different religious affiliations. We find that, among highly religious U.S. natives, anti-Muslim bias is lower toward very religious Muslims, compared to non-religious Muslims. This attenuating effect of attribute affinity with respect to religiosity on anti-Muslim bias presents the strongest evidence supporting our argument.
Motivated Brokers: An Ethnography of Political Brokers during the Electoral Off-Season
Abstract: I use data from in-depth interviews with party leaders and political brokers during the electoral off-season to show that brokers are not only motivated by electoral payoffs. Brokers also procure their clients’ esteem across electoral cycles to secure their positions. I argue that motivation to maximize electoral return during elections differs from the one to maximize their tenure during the electoral off-season. While the first requires strategic distribution according to electoral preferences, the second requires brokers to procure esteem and trust within their communities.
How Competition Changes Distributive Strategies of Local Political Intermediaries
Abstract: Do local partisan brokers change their distributive preferences when faced with competition? This paper studies local partisan intermediaries’ distributive preferences in 112 villages embedded in a larger field experiment conducted in Mexico. The field experiment randomly introduces a non-partisan facilitator in treated units, trained to inform and assist citizens in formally requesting government resources, a task that usually falls to the partisan intermediary. I find that additional competition makes partisan intermediaries express more progressive distributive preferences as measured through a conjoint analysis. However the preferences both pre and post treatment are at odds with how goods are actually distributed, as measured by a citizen survey. Political intermediaries generally claim to have very progressive preferences, even more so under treatment, but actual distribution shows a much more regressive, partisan and biased distribution.
Partisan Poll Workers: How Election Officials’ Political Sympathies Affect Electoral Results (with F. Daniel Hidalgo).
Abstract: In Mexico, citizens are invited to participate as poll workers if the first letter of their last name and their month of birth is randomly drawn. We match registered poll workers for 2012 and 2009 elections in a northern state in Mexico to a unique data set of party sympathizers to test whether poll workers’ personal party sympathies affect election outcomes. Using the proportion of eligible party sympathizers to serve as poll workers, we instrument for partisan citizens working at the polls. We find that having a partisan sympathizer as a poll worker increases vote share for that party by 0.4%
Quid pro Quo: How the Form of Gift Giving Affects Voter Reciprocity. (with Leah R. Rosenzweig).
Abstract:The persistence of vote buying has generated a vast literature seeking to understand how voter commitment is sustained. Scholars have investigated the role that fear and monitoring play in inducing voter compliance, but even in the absence of monitoring and coercion, voters who receive something in exchange for their promised vote often reciprocate. The question remains as to how the tone and manner in which the exchange happens affect voter behavior. Using behavioral laboratory games played in Nairobi, Kenya, we implement gift-giving experiments framed as single-shot vote buying exchanges. By randomly varying two elements of the exchange -- the type of gift given (cash or in-kind) and the method of exchange (directly to an individual or collectively to a group) -- we are able to causally identify the effect of these different vote buying strategies on voter reciprocal behavior. In addition, we investigate the effect of the candidate's ethnic identity. We find that voters react negatively when offered cash, especially men. Additionally, voters are most likely to reciprocate with costly support when given an in-kind gift collectively, especially older individuals.
Red Tape, Corruption, and Distributive Politics. (with Aditya Dasgupta)
Abstract: This paper investigates the distributive politics of red tape – the time-consuming bureaucratic hurdles attached to the application for government benefits and services – and its consequences for the distribution of access to government welfare programs. A simple model suggests that red tape has both progressive and regressive effects, tending to exclude not only the wealthiest individuals but also, in the presence of bureaucratic corruption, the very poorest individuals. This is because poorer individuals may be willing to pay but are constrained in their ability to pay the bribes required to clear red tape. This provides arbitrage opportunities for clientelist intermediaries that specialize in cutting red tape in exchange for the political loyalty of poor voters. Evidence is provided using household survey data on access to Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards in India.