Contextual Incentives are Not Enough: Clientelistic Capacity and the Politics of Enrollment in Mexico¿s Seguro Popular Academic Article in Scopus uri icon


  • © 2018 Policy Studies Organization Recent work suggests that there is a close and positive relation between poverty, electoral competitiveness, and the development of clientelistic linkages among political parties and the electorate. The prevailing argument is that high levels of electoral competitiveness in poor districts incentivize all parties competing there to buy votes. This article suggests that, even when facing these contextual incentives, parties will not be able to engage in clientelistic relations with voters unless they have the organizational ability to do so. We call this ability ¿clientelistic capacity¿ and develop an argument to explain its variation among Mexico¿s three main parties. We test our claims using a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effect of a party in municipal government on enrollment in Seguro Popular, a public program targeted to the poor. We demonstrate that parties with clientelistic capacity enroll more persons in the program.

Publication date

  • December 1, 2018