The expansion of large-scale non-discretionary social policy has been one of the most important policy innovations in Latin America in recent decades. While these benefits have reduced the political manipulation of low-income citizens, discretionary social programs—whose distribution follows opaque criteria and are often allocated according to political considerations—continue to exist. Employing an original survey in Mexico, we explore how citizens, both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries, experience and perceive access to discretionary social programs. While the literature on clientelism emphasizes the distribution of discretionary benefits by party agents in exchange for electoral support, a number of recent studies have found that access to discretionary social benefits can also operate through community associations or interest organizations. We conducted a list experiment in our survey to detect whether in the experience or perception of the respondent social benefits are allocated on the basis of partisan campaign support or organizational participation. Our findings reveal that organizational brokerage is at least as important as the much-studied role of party-mediated clientelism for access to discretionary benefits.


Garay, Candelaria, Brian Palmer-Rubin, and Mathias Poertner. "Organizational and Partisan Brokerage of Social Benefits: Evidence of Social Policy Linkages in Mexico." World Development 136 (December 2020 (available online fall 2020)).