DP11245 | Family Networks and Distributive Politics

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We argue that incumbents share rents with central players to build and sustain coalitions. Using an unusually rich dataset, we show that households with high betweenness centrality – a measure of brokerage potential – receive more public services from their local government. This result is robust to the inclusion of controls for program eligibility, family ties with politicians, and other measures of centrality – which are not significant once betweenness is included. We provide further corroboration from indirect evidence from variation in size and electoral competition across municipalities. Finally, we show that in municipalities where politicians provide more goods and services to their relatives they target fewer goods to households with high betweenness centrality. The evidence supports the hypothesis that incumbent municipal politicians offer favorable access to public services to households most able to play a brokerage role in the formation of coalitions of families for electoral support.