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Allocating Essential Public Services: Collective Action and Local Politics in Northeast Brazil

March 22, 2018 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

The Brazil Research Seminar Series invites you to its discussion titled,“Allocating Essential Public Services: Collective Action and Local Politics in Northeast Brazil” with Alicia Cooperman, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Columbia University.

Alicia Cooperman is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Columbia University. Her main interests are political economy of development, environmental politics, and statistical methods, focused in Latin America. Her dissertation explains why even similarly poor communities have very different access to basic and scarce resources, and she explores the complex social and electoral dynamic between citizens, community associations, and local politicians. She focuses on access to water, health services, and drought relief in Northeast Brazil, and she has conducted extensive qualitative interviews and large-scale household surveys in the rural interior of Ceará.

What explains variation in access to public services? Implementation of public policies as essential as water and healthcare can vary drastically even between neighboring communities, and citizens must use their social and political environment to get what they need.

Alicia argues that two important theories of collective action and distributive politics interact through the mechanisms of lobbying and “trading favors,” where communities trade votes for targeted club goods. Communities have better access to services where features of collective action and political connections are present and interact. This occurs because a community’s participation in local organizations affects its ability to concentrate its vote in a winning candidate before an election and mobilize to enforce candidates’ campaign promises after an election.

Alicia Cooperman tests her hypotheses using original household surveys from 2016 and 2017 merged with precinct-level electoral data from 2012 and 2016 and extensive qualitative interviews in the state of Ceará in Northeast Brazil. She finds that individuals have better water access where they have high satisfaction in their association and where their polling station had a higher vote-share in one city council candidate. She also finds evidence for her mechanisms of concentration of voting.


March 22, 2018
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
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