Presentation Title
(Under What Conditions) Do Politicians Reward Their Supporters? Evidence from Kenya's Constituencies Development Fund
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Gibson Hall S296

James S. Coleman Professor of International Development in the Department of Political Science at UCLA

We leverage innovative spatial modeling techniques and data on the precise geo-locations
of more than 34,000 Constituency Development Fund (CDF) projects in Kenya to test
whether MPs reward their supporters. We find only weak evidence that MPs channel
projects disproportionately to areas inhabited by their political allies, once we control for
other factors that affect where projects are placed such as population density, poverty
rates, ethnic demographics, and distance to paved roads. Notwithstanding this result, we
find evidence for significant cross-constituency variation in political targeting, driven in
large part by the spatial segregation of the MP’s supporters and opponents. Our findings
thus challenge the conventional wisdom about the centrality of clientelistic transfers in
Africa and underscore how local conditions generate particular incentives and
opportunities for the strategic allocation of political goods. Although based on
substantive materials from an African case, the paper thus speaks to fundamental issues
in distributive politics.