Electoral Systems, Competition, and Incentives for Corruption


What is the effect of electoral rules on political corruption? While the influence of elections on accountability and representation has been widely studied, the link between electoral systems and corruption remains sparse. This paper develops a model for the interplay between corruption and electoral rules, considering the incentives for challengers to expose the corruption undertaken by the incumbents. I identify two major components: first, rules that increase competition create incentives for free-riding, as challengers would prefer those other challengers to pay the cost of exposure. Second, larger district sizes create coordination problems, as the same incumbent may be overexposed, while others were not exposed at all. These characteristics make a mix of high competitiveness and PR the worst system regarding incentives for corruption. I show that these predictions hold empirically using quasi-experimental data from Brazilian municipalities. This study has implications for the design of electoral institutions aimed at lowering corruption.

When Does Clientelism Pay Off? Legislature Size and Welfare in Brazil (with G. Cepaluni)

What is the effect of clientelism on voters’ welfare? This paper shows that clientelism may occasionally improve welfare. Starting with a model of clientelistic services provision, we investigate which types of services clientelism impacts on. We take advantage of exogenous changes in city-council size in Brazil to test our theory, varying the number of councilors in highly clientelistic settings. While we find that the addition of a councilor(s) has a null effect on education quality and preventive health care, we do observe improvements in infant mortality and primary school enrollment. Additionally, we find that more councilors increase patronage and that councilors believe they benefit electorally from clientelism. In sum, increasing clientelistic supply improves those public services voters want and which clientelistic machines can capture. This skews policy enhancement away from welfare services that are not electorally promising.

The Art of not Being Coerced: How Outside Options Shape Elections in Weakly Institutionalized Democracies (with R. Sexton)


Norms of democratic practice have become a pre-condition for access to aid, trade, and international forums for many poor countries. In this article, we present a theory of captured electoral democracy in which local bosses or caudillos use coercion and/or fraud deliver votes for ruling party, particularly in peripheral regions, in exchange for wide authority to extract economic rents between elections. As articulated by Scott (2009), this electoral pressure further incentivizes citizens to evade the local agents of the state. However, their capacity to avoid being “governed” depends on the viability of subsistence activities in the periphery. Using exogenous variation in drought conditions in Paraguay and Afghanistan, we show that a strong outside option for citizen dramatically increases the level of electoral fraud in ruling party vote totals, while decreasing the level of violent coercion voters are exposed to. These results suggest that there is a dark side to international norms of democracy: when economic times are tough for rural voters elections to expose them to increased violent coercion, without any real chance to affect the outcome of the election.

International Institutions and Rogue States Deterrence (with C. Hafer)

un_sec_council_by_neptuulWhat is the effect of International Institutions on Rogue State’s deterrence? While some policymakers believe that institutions like the UN mostly provide the Rogue States information and time to take their actions, others advocate that they may create effective means to deter and slow down the Rogue States. In this paper, we develop a model containing two key features in the Rogue States deterrence interaction. First, the fact that countries have incomplete information about the resolve the Rogue State has to carry on with the aggression. Second, those countries have incomplete information about how much the other countries are being harmed by the Rogue State’s actions. We show that all players, regardless of their types, prefer some form of international institution that no institutions. However, there is no consensus on which institution countries should use. We derive the institutional setting that generates the maximum ex-ante level of deterrence, and we show that Rogue State’s aggressions are monotonic in the level of deterrence. This implies that conditional on fighting, the fights are more costly the higher the deterrence levels. Our results have implications for the design of international security institutions.

Incentives for Preventive Health Care Provision: The Brazilian Case


Mosquito-borne diseases are among the leading causes of death in humans. The recent Zika virus epidemics highlight the dangers of the Aedes Aegypti, especially for infants and the pregnant woman. Since the efforts to combat the epidemic are usually driven by community-based health interventions, I propose a field experiment to measure how to optimally incentivize the community health care agents in Brazil. The experiment will consist of hired and trained subjects to visit houses and help residents to identify Aedes Aegypti breeding sites. I will randomly assign performance monetary rewards and pro-social incentives to subjects. Their performance will be monitored using cell phone data and position. After the intervention, I will apply a post-treatment survey, and for six months I will monitor the incidence of diseases transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti (mainly Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya). My goal is to measure the impact of the overall intervention and also to find the optimal combination of incentives to maximize the benefits of these policies.

Institutional determinants of the democratic survival

corrupchargeHow institutions influence the survival of democracies? In this paper, I consider a model of democracy that incorporates institutional features in the classical income redistribution models. The paper starts with a moderator analysis that shows a strong influence of institutions on the income-democracy relationship. In the theoretical model I consider three components that moderate the distribution tensions: first, redistributive inefficiencies, such as leakage in taxation, income misreporting, corruption, or dead-weight losses; second, the possibility of electoral manipulation, such as frauds, political violence, party bans, and legal restrictions to political participation; finally, legal binding limitations on the redistributive capability, such as the existence of an independent judiciary that oversees the government decisions. I show that inefficiencies and electoral manipulation increase the chances of a democratic breakdown while some levels of institutional checks and balances may be beneficial for democratic survival. This paper has implications for understanding the recent democratic backsliding in developing democracies around the world.