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From targeted private benefits to public goods: land, distributive politics and changing political conditions in Colombia

Benson, Allison L. (2021) From targeted private benefits to public goods: land, distributive politics and changing political conditions in Colombia. World Development, 146. ISSN 0305-750X

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2021.105571


This paper analyzes how changes in political conditions affect distributive politics. We study the case of Colombia, focusing on the strategic allocation of land in relation to the electoral cycle. Relying on over 55.000 municipality-year observations on land allocations, exogenous timing of elections and sociodemographic controls, we show that there is a political land cycle (PLC), and that this cycle is dependent on the local political conditions in place. We analyze the changes in the PLC derived from the implementation of a deep political reform that increased political competition and the fiscal and administrative capacity of the state, doing so heterogeneously across municipalities. We show that the PLC decreased by half after the reform, with this reduction being stronger in municipalities in which political competition and fiscal and administrative capacity increased the most. The heterogeneous reduction in the PLC does not appear to stem from an aggregate weakening of distributive politics, but rather, from a re-composition of the distributive politics portfolio: away from the allocation of private targeted benefits like land, and towards the strategic allocation of public goods. We discuss the incentive and capacity effects explaining this re-composition likely affecting the relative costs and benefits of different types of distributive politics resources. The results evidence the importance of understanding not only the territorial dimension of distributive politics, but also how the specific traits of resources determine distributive politics strategies and their resilience to contextual changes.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 Elsevier Ltd.
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: J Political Science > JL Political institutions (America except United States)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
JEL classification: D - Microeconomics > D7 - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making > D72 - Economic Models of Political Processes: Rent-Seeking, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
D - Microeconomics > D7 - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making > D73 - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
H - Public Economics > H4 - Publicly Provided Goods > H41 - Public Goods
H - Public Economics > H4 - Publicly Provided Goods > H42 - Publicly Provided Private Goods
L - Industrial Organization > L3 - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise > L33 - Comparison of Public and Private Enterprises; Privatization; Contracting Out
Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics > Q1 - Agriculture > Q15 - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2021 15:27
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2022 08:21

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