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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Essays on the political economy of state capacity, conflict, and democratization Riaño Rodríguez, Juan Felipe


This dissertation consists of four essays on the Political Economy of Development. The first two essays revolve around the role of political competition and family ties in influencing the administrative capacity of the state, while the last two chapters focus on the legacies of conflict and the importance of the media for the process of democratization. Chapter 2 shows that, in contexts where clientelism is ubiquitous, incumbent parties could have the incentive to prevent investments in local and bureaucratic state capacity when politically challenged. The chapter presents a theoretical model and empirical support for this theory using administrative data from a land allocation program in Mexico from 1910 to 1992. The empirical strategy exploits a shock that threatened the hegemony of the PRI in Mexico during the 1960s with varying intensity across municipalities. Chapter 3 presents the first systematic empirical examination of bureaucratic nepotism and anti-nepotism legislation using administrative data for an entire modern bureaucracy. This chapter shows that family connections, in general, and kin favoritism, in particular, influenced the compensation, promotions, and quality of bureaucrats in Colombia from 2011 to 2017. It evaluates the introduction of anti-nepotism legislation in 2015 and shows how it failed due to the strategic response of bureaucrats to the policy change. Chapter 4 studies the long-term impacts of conflict on economic development. It focuses on Laos and the US secret intervention in the country from 1964 to 1973. Due to massive bombing campaigns during this period, Laos is now severely contaminated with Unexploded Ordnance (UXOs) and remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Chapter 5 studies the importance of the media in determining the success or failure of institutional reforms. It focuses on the adoption of secret voting in the US and the role of newspapers in this crucial step for democratization. After introducing the secret ballot, areas with high levels of media penetration exhibited decreases in partisan attachment and support for dominant parties, less gerrymandering, and higher turnout rates. This chapter argues that the media mattered by distributing information to voters and increasing public awareness about political misconduct.

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