Aiming Right at You: Group versus Individual Clientelistic Targeting in Brazil

Héctor Bahamonde


Do parties target individuals or groups? Although this question is fundamental to understanding clientelism, the literature does not offer an answer. This paper argues that, depending on certain conditions, brokers target individuals when they are identifiable, and groups when brokers need to rely on the spillover effects of clientelism. Both identifiability and spillovers depend on individual poverty, group poverty, and political competition. Though the theory I outline focuses on targeting, I also argue that structural factors, such as the density of the poor, should be considered in the vote-buying literature. Structural factors are one of the few observables upon which brokers can base their decision regarding investing in clientelism. Using survey and census data from Brazil, the paper exploits variations in personal incomes within contexts of differing levels of municipal poverty. I find that political parties engage in segmented or ad-hoc strategies, targeting individuals when identifiability is high, and groups when there are economies of scale. Importantly, non-poor individuals can also be offered clientelism.

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