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Vote-Buying and Reciprocity

A topic of much interest in the political economy of corruption is the effectiveness of vote-buying. Since in most settings ballots are secret, politicians cannot enforce receiving votes in exchange of gifts; giving patronage money might have no effect on votes since it is not observable. Using Paraguay as a case study Finan and Schechter test a behavioural theory: are more “reciprocal” individuals targeted by politicians for vote buying?

This study presents an interesting research design. By making people participate in games with small monetary payoffs, the authors obtain a measure of reciprocity for each individual. The data on vote-buying is obtained from survey data, where individuals and village chiefs are asked whether they received money or gifts from a political party.

Finan and Schechter show that politicians in Paraguay, via middlemen who know most people in a given village, target gifts towards reciprocal individuals. Individuals who are one standard deviation more reciprocal have a 44% higher chance of being targeted.

This article is an interesting contribution to understanding the politics of corruption for the following reasons: From a methodological standpoint, this is one of few studies that successfully incorporate experimental data (measure of reciprocity) with real world data. From an economic perspective, the results highlight the role of sentiments and identity in political decisions, and the sophisticated mechanisms of political vote-buying.


Citation: F. Finan & L. Schechter, "Vote-Buying and Reciprocity", August 2011. Forthcoming, Econometrica

Author : Finan and Schechter

07 Nov 2011

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