​​​Do Competitive Elections Improve Public Goods Distribution?


​How do elections affect public goods distribution in developing countries? We argue that competitive elections can induce incumbents to engage in greater clientelistic distribution in order to bolster their reputations as patrons capable of channeling resources to clients. Vulnerable incumbents specifically seek to allocate resources that can be individually targeted, allow for personal credit-claiming, and delivered in advance of the next election. To assess these expectations, we examine parliamentarian behavior under Kenya’s Constituency Development Fund (CDF). Analyzing annual CDF data for 210 constituencies from 2002 through 2010, we show that incumbents facing competitive elections devote fewer resources to public goods that are non-excludable. Incumbents who win with smaller vote margins and under higher turnout tend to increase spending in areas where resources can be targeted or possibly appropriated for other ends. We find that these patterns are magnified as the next electoral cycle approaches.

Working Paper