Kellogg Work-in-Progress: "The Most Vulnerable Voters: Clientelism and Political Behavior among Slum Dwellers"


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A Kellogg Work-in-Progress Seminar with Visiting Fellow Virginia Oliveros. Oliveros is an associate professor of political science and an associate research fellow at the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research and the Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University.

Are slum dwellers more involved in clientelistic arrangements than other (urban poor) voters? While poverty is a key predictor of clientelism, some urban poor voters are more involved in clientelistic arrangement than others. Insecure tenure, lack of access to public resources, and location in areas exposed to environmental shocks increase the vulnerability of slum dwellers. This vulnerability is used by politicians and brokers, who politicize access to scarce resources, and thus make slum dweller more exposed to clientelism. The qualitative literature has long highlighted how clientelism provides a strategy for slum dwellers to cope with their vulnerability, but this population is often excluded from quantitative analyses of clientelism. Using survey data from Argentina and a matching technique that allows us to compare slum dwellers with similar non slum dwellers, we find that there is indeed a higher prevalence of clientelism among the former. We use a survey experiment on monitoring and sanctions to show that this different exposure to clientelism is consequential. We find different responses across similarly poor slum dwellers and non-slum dwellers regarding the potential consequences of defecting from clientelistic arrangements. Our findings suggest that including slum dwellers in quantitative analyses would improve our understanding of clientelism.

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