Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity


The Politics of Poverty: Political Targeting and Poverty Alleviation in Latin America

Friday, February 19, 2010 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm

The Center for Global Development presents a brown bag seminar on 
The Politics of Poverty: 
Political Targeting and Poverty Alleviation in Latin America

Simeon Nichter 
University of California, Berkeley 

Simeon is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley.
Friday, February 19, 2010 
Please bring your lunch--drinks provided

Center for Global Development
1800 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Third Floor, Washington, DC
*Please bring photo identification*


Abstract: Many poverty alleviation programs fail due to political interference. Politicians frequently undermine development efforts when they target benefits using political criteria. To improve poverty outcomes, we must understand the logic of such politicized targeting. Studies typically assume that politicians engage in "vote buying," bribing the poor to switch their vote choices. My research challenges this assumption by drawing attention to strategies overlooked in earlier studies. For example, politicians often engage in "turnout buying," rewarding supporters for showing up at the polls. Econometric analyses of survey data from Argentina provide evidence of turnout buying. I then develop a model to analyze why the prevalence of each strategy differs across developing countries. Finally, I consider the important strategic role that citizens play in exchange relationships. Based on 18 months of qualitative fieldwork in Brazil, my research suggests that the poor often engage in "declared choice," signaling their votes to politicians in order to obtain benefits. Such findings have important implications for ways in which practitioners can reduce political interference in development projects.