Gustavo Bobonis

Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy of Development

Tier 2 - 2014-03-01
Renewed: 2019-03-01
University of Toronto
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Research involves

Evaluating barriers to good government in new democracies by investigating the complex relationships between voter patronage, poverty, local customs, and government responsiveness.

Research relevance

This research aims to provide evidence showing how reforms can help emerging democracies develop better governments.

Do Votes for Sale in Emerging Democracies Affect the Responsiveness of Government?

Many developing countries have adopted democratic governments in recent decades. However, there is an increasing perception that the shift has not always translated into better government.

It has been suggested that voter patronage systems—in which politicians trade favours or gifts to individuals in exchange for their votes—may be an important barrier to creating governments that are responsive to voters’ needs. The idea is that voters highly value what they are getting in exchange for their vote (e.g., money, medicines, water); as a result, politicians in power benefit from households that lack access to resources or public goods and services.

Dr. Gustavo Bobonis, Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy of Development, is investigating the challenges involved in establishing good governments in emerging democracies.

Bobonis is leading comprehensive studies in northeast Brazil and southern Mexico, to investigate the relationships between poverty, patronage and government responsiveness. In Brazil, he is examining whether providing private water access to families in remote rural areas that lack water will change the way they vote, their relationships with politicians, and government’s responsiveness to their needs. In Mexico, Bobonis is exploring whether gradual political reforms that pass decision-making power on to local indigenous groups improve families’ access to public goods and services.

Bobonis’s research will help identify and evaluate barriers to good government due to patronage in emerging democracies. His findings will provide example evidence supporting gradual reforms that can help improve governance in emerging democracies.