Authors: Bruno Caprettini, Lorenzo Casaburi and Miriam Venturini
Many democracies around the world feature pervasive clientelist practices. How these systems emerge and persist is a central question in political economy. Redistribution policies can reduce poverty and inequality, thus undermining important determinants of clientelism. However, by inducing voter reciprocity, they can also initiate the political exchange typical of clientelist systems. Therefore, the relation between redistribution and clientelism is a priori ambiguous. We study how voting and clientelism respond to a major redistribution policy, the 1950 Italian land reform. Using a panel spatial regression discontinuity and data for half a century, we show that the large-scale redistribution led to the emergence of a long-lasting clientelist system characterized by political brokers, patronage and targeted benefits. Within this system, the Christian Democratic party, which promoted the reform, experienced persistent electoral gains.
About the speaker:
Bruno Caprettini is an economist working on political economy, development and economic history. He is especially interested in the impact of new technologies on growth and welfare as well as in the political economy of mobilization and civic engagement. He holds a Ph.D. from UPF and in 2018-22 he was SNF Ambizione fellow at UZH. In August 2022 he will join the School of Economics and Political Science of St Gallen University.