One Mandarin Benefits the Whole Clan: Hometown Favoritism in an Authoritarian Regime
LIEPP Working Paper
Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Evaluation of Public Policies
LIEPP Working Paper : 13
Although patronage politics in democracies has been studied extensively, it is less understood in undemocratic regimes, where a large proportion of the world's population resides. To fill this gap, our paper studies how government officials in authoritarian Vietnam direct public resources toward their hometowns. We manually collect an exhaustive panel dataset of political promotions of officials from 2000 to 2010 and estimate their impact on public infrastructure in their rural hometowns. We obtain three main results. First, promotions of officials improve a wide range of infrastructure in their hometowns, including roads, markets, schools, radio stations, clean water and irrigation. This favoritism is pervasive among officials across different ranks, even among those without budget authority, suggesting informal channels of influence. Second, in contrast to pork-barrel politics in democratic parliaments, elected legislators have no power to exercise favoritism. Third, only home communes receive favors, while larger and more politically important home districts do not. This suggests that favoritism is likely motivated by officials’ social preferences for their hometowns rather than by political considerations.