Research: Articles


Patronage Contracting (under review)

Pi Sigma Alpha Award, Western Political Science Association, 2022 (best paper presented at 2022 WPSA Annual Meeting).

Outsourcing public services to private providers is heralded for increasing government efficiency. Yet, outsourcing also offers opportunities to circumvent employment regulations in the public sector. The praised flexibility that private contractors have to hire employees can also be used to hire political supporters. I call the use of outsourcing for mobilization purposes patronage contracting. By exploiting close-elections regression discontinuities across Brazilian municipalities, I show that opportunistic mayors who engage in clientelistic practices outsource not only service delivery but also patronage jobs. Moreover, I demonstrate that this effect is driven by municipalities where mayors are pressured by stronger political machines. Preregistered survey experiments with mayoral candidates further confirm these findings. This study presents a cautionary tale against the common assertion that outsourced services provide fewer opportunities for malfeasance. On the contrary, public-sector outsourcing can exacerbate government reliance on patronage appointments due to the reduced oversight of contract employees.

Paper here.

Who Turns to Clientelism? Opportunistic Politicians, Patronage Appointments, and Vote Buying in Brazil (under review)

Programmatic and clientelistic exchanges between voters and politicians coexist in many countries. Why do some politicians engage in clientelism while others do not? Existing explanations highlight economic development, political competition, and incumbency. By contrast, this study emphasizes a crucial but overlooked factor—namely, politicians’ motivations. Investigating politicians’ prior party-switching behavior, I introduce a novel empirical approach to distinguish policy-motivated from office-motivated politicians. I propose that the latter, whom I call opportunists, are more likely to engage in clientelism. Exploiting a close-elections regression discontinuity design across Brazilian municipalities, I show that opportunists resort to patronage appointments in both lower-ranking and senior government jobs. Analyses of public opinion and surveys of politicians reveal that opportunists also engage in vote buying. As inattention to politicians’ motivations is not restricted to the literature on clientelism, these findings remind scholars of the importance of intrinsic motivations to understand elite political behavior.

Paper here.


Abusing Power to Fight Corruption (joint with Isabela Mares)

Supporting Black Lives Matter: Citizens’ Views on Corporate Activism

Political Representation of Disadvantaged Ethnic Groups: Competence, Effort, and Performance of Indigenous Mayors in Peru