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How Do Voters Respond to Welfare vis-à-vis Public Good Programs? An Empirical Test for Clientelism

Staff Report 605 | Revised March 17, 2022

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Authors

Pranab Bardhan University of California, Berkeley
Sandip Mitra Indian Statistical Institute
Dilip Mookherjee Boston University
Anusha Nath Senior Research Economist
How Do Voters Respond to Welfare vis-à-vis Public Good Programs? An Empirical Test for Clientelism

Abstract

Using rural household survey data from West Bengal, we find that voters respond positively to excludable government welfare benefits but not to local public good programs, while reporting having benefited from both. Consistent with these voting patterns, shocks to electoral competition induced by exogenous redistricting of villages resulted in upper-tier governments manipulating allocations across local governments only for excludable benefit programs. Using a hierarchical budgeting model, we argue these results provide credible evidence of the presence of clientelism rather than standard political economy theories of programmatic politics.




Related: [Staff Report 638: Online Appendix](https://doi.org/10.21034/sr.638)