Clients and Constituents: Political Responsiveness in Patronage Democracies

Manuscript in Progress - for a detailed overview of the manuscript, please click here.

​This book provides a theoretical and empirical examination of constituency service in developing countries. The predominant view of distributive politics in “patronage democracies” emphasizes the partisan targeting of pork and clientelism. In contrast, I demonstrate that high-level legislators in India and other contexts often provide direct, non-partisan assistance to individual constituents. Under what conditions do they provide constituency service, rather than engage in partisan bias? I show that the uneven character of access to services at the local level—often due to biased allocation on the part of local intermediaries—generates demand for help from higher-level officials, and also creates incentives for those politicians to bypass intermediaries by providing direct assistance. The book’s findings highlight the potential for an underappreciated form of democratic accountability, one that is however rooted in the character of patronage-based politics.

Institutional Capacity for Natural Disasters: Case Studies from Africa

2014, University of Texas at Austin: Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law

For the full report, please click here. Research briefs are available here.

​Natural hazards, such as floods, drought, earthquakes, and tropical cyclones, do not necessarily result in disasters, but they present a clear policy challenge for national governments: how does a country prepare for the often unexpected? This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that natural shocks have the potential to impose significant economic costs and loss of life. These dynamics have resulted in national governments often adopting diverse natural disaster management strategies. This report details the findings of a research initiative to explore the causes of variation in government policies to reduce the risk of, prepare for, and respond to natural disasters. The discussion focuses on the African continent and ten case studies within Africa, and highlights the importance of political considerations for understanding the incentives of governments to invest in preparedness activities. The findings of the analysis should be relevant to a broader set of cases, particularly developing countries.

Corruption and Reform in India: Public Services in the Digital Age

​2012, Cambridge University Press

This book asks why some governments improve public services more effectively than others. Through the investigation of a new era of administrative reform, in which digital technologies may be used to facilitate citizens' access to the state, Jennifer Bussell's analysis provides unanticipated insights into this fundamental question. In contrast to factors such as economic development or electoral competition, this study highlights the importance of access to rents, which can dramatically shape the opportunities and threats of reform to political elites. Drawing on a sub-national analysis of twenty Indian states, a field experiment, statistical modeling, case studies, interviews of citizens, bureaucrats and politicians, and comparative data from South Africa and Brazil, Bussell shows that the extent to which politicians rely on income from petty and grand corruption is closely linked to variation in the timing, management and comprehensiveness of reforms.

Books & Monographs