Guillermo Toral


Governing with jobs: The political logics of patronage and their impact on development

The political appointment of bureaucrats (or patronage, for short) is a major resource for politicians around the world. While scholars have long studied patronage, we lack a detailed understanding of the strategies politicians use to target public employment, and how those strategies affect public service delivery. My dissertation contributes to fill this gap. Patronage is commonly seen as a clientelistic system in which bureaucracies are staffed with supporters to retain political power. In contrast to this long-held view, I unpack patronage by identifying five distinct rationales that drive politicians’ use of government jobs: managing bureaucrats to better deliver public services, securing legislator support to ease governance, mobilizing voters to win elections, rewarding supporters, and stacking the deck against opponents when voted out of office. Each of these logics of patronage has a different rationale, distinct hiring patterns, and divergent effects on governance and service delivery.

Empirically, I document the five logics of patronage with data on Brazilian local governments, a particularly useful context to study patronage given its large size, wide variation in bureaucrat appointment modes, and the availability of rich datasets on bureaucrats and their performance. I combine administrative microdata (including restricted-access, identified data on the universe of municipal employees over 15 years, and data on the performance of education and healthcare bureaucracies), two original surveys in one state (a face-to-face representative survey of 926 bureaucrats, and an online survey of 755 local politicians), and 132 in-depth interviews with bureaucrats, politicians, and anti-corruption agents done over 18 months of fieldwork in 7 states. I use these data to illustrate the diverse uses of patronage and their consequences.

Three novel implications emerge from my dissertation. First, patronage can be good: when staffing managerial positions in the bureaucracy, political appointments and connections can –under certain circumstances— enhance accountability and effectiveness in public service delivery. Second, when politicians use patronage to extract rents, they mobilize a diverse set of strategies that go beyond the hiring of supporters, including the hiring of civil service (i.e., tenured) bureaucrats or the firing (not just hiring) of temporaries. Third, policies commonly used to reduce patronage can have undesirable consequences. These policies include civil service regimes, legal constraints on hiring, and elections for bureaucratic positions.