Discussion paper

DP11245 Family Networks and Distributive Politics

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.


Fafchamps, M and J Labonne (2016), ‘DP11245 Family Networks and Distributive Politics‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 11245. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp11245