My dissertation examines how clientelist expectations—an exchange of goods for votes— mediates the ways citizens perceive and interact with state actors, to the detriment of state capacity building.
A dissertation abstract describing the project is available here. Summaries of two empirical chapters are provided below.
How Community Votes Shape Individual Preferences for Taxation: Experimental Evidence from Benin
Expanding African cities face growing demand for public services, but few succeed in collecting the tax revenue that would fund these services. Aside from evident issues of state capacity and low income, this paper argues that the use of electoral clientelism strategies impedes tax-raising efforts by negatively shaping the expectations of would-be political losers. I show this relationship via a survey experiment across municipalities in Benin, a relatively stable patronage democracy. In the experiment, the respondent is randomly informed whether their district's (roughly equivalent to a municipal ward) vote share for the mayor's political party was above or below the municipal average. I found those who received information of a below-average district vote expected politicians to redistribute resources from tax revenue unfairly, and were also less willing to contribute to their local governments through their tax dollars. My findings point toward long-term, negative effects of patronage practices on substantive policy issues, especially among individuals and communities that expect to lose from favored redistribution.
The full paper is available here.
When Clients Claim: Clientelism, Tax Enforcement, and Compliance
Tax evasion is a pervasive problem in developing countries that struggle to build their capacity to collect taxes. This paper presents clientelist demands, by which citizen clients demand rewards on the basis of past votes for incumbents, as an explanation for persistently low tax capacity. I argue that the clientelist strategies politicians adopt further weaken their capacity to enforce taxes by eroding their bargaining power over their clients. Using Afrobarometer survey data from Benin, I find that citizens living in neighborhoods with high voteshares for their city's mayor were more likely to report a past refusal to pay taxes. Further evidence from a vignette experiment conducted in Benin confirms that this tax-resistant behavior is driven by incumbent supporters' expectations for lenient tax enforcement. A sharp departure from dominant views of citizen clients as subordinate actors, I present evidence of citizen agency and accountability claiming for policy benefits rather than small cash or gift handouts. I end with implications for the spatial variation of tax enforcement capacity as a function of clientelist linkages, speaking to literatures on state-building, clientelism, and taxation.
The introduction to this paper is available here.