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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Essays on the political economy of local Brazilian governments Fujiwara, Thomas


Recent research has stressed the role of political institutions in economic development. This thesis aims at shedding light on this issue by empirically analyzing the political determinants of policymaking and its consequences to living standards in a developing economy setting. Each of its three chapters presents a separate essay. The first chapter addresses how the political participation of disadvantaged groups can be fostered. It studies the introduction of electronic technology that facilitated voting for the less educated in Brazilian elections. Using a regression discontinuity design embedded in its phase-in, it provides evidence that electronic voting reduced residual (uncounted) votes and generated the de facto enfranchisement of a large fraction of the less educated (poorer) parts of the electorate. The second chapter tests if this additional political participation of poorer voters shifted public policymaking in a way that benefited them. It finds evidence that electronic voting increased the number of state legislators that are themselves less educated and shifted government spending towards public health care, a government policy that disproportionately benefits the less educated, leading to improved utilization (number of pre-natal visits) and lower prevalence of low-weight births in this group. No effects on health care utilization by the more educated and on the weight of their newborns are found, suggesting that electronic voting indeed empowered the less educated. Lastly, the third chapter addresses the empirical relevance of strategic voting, a key issue in theoretical and policy analysis of political institutions. It uses exogenous variation in electoral rules to test the predictions of strategic voting models and the causal validity of Duverger's Law. Estimations based on a regression discontinuity design in the assignment of single-ballot and dual-ballot electoral systems in Brazilian mayoral races indicate that, in accordance to Duverger's Law, single-ballot plurality rule causes voters to desert third placed candidates and vote for the two most popular ones. It finds that the effects are stronger in close elections, and that candidates' characteristics and entry cannot account for the results, suggesting that strategic voting is the driving force behind these findings.

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