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Wantchekon: Clientelism and voting behavior

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Wantchekon. 2003. Clientelism and voting behavior: Evidence from a field experiment in Benin. World Politics: 399-422.


Don't know how he got this past the human subjects board, but Wantchekon ran a real experiment--with real presidential candidates--in Benin. Candidates adopted either a public-goods or private-goods strategy in (a few) randomly assigned districts. He finds that clientelism, not public goods provision, dominates Benin's politics. "The results further develop and expand the conventional wisdom in African politics by establishing that (1) clientelist appeals reinforce ethnic voting (not the other way round) and that (2) voters' preference for clientelist or public goods messages depends in large part on political factors such as incumbency and on demographic factors such as gender."

Specific findings:

  • Women prefer public goods platforms more than men
  • Incumbents and regional candidates get more mileage from clientelistic platforms (than challengers and national candidates) (because their promises of pork are more credible)

Regarding gender, he argues that men are more likely to be the recipients of clientelism (e.g. they get government jobs), and that's why gender matters. I'm not sure I buy this--after all, I would imagine many women in Benin are housewives, and therefore be happy if their husbands get a government job.