The Political Economy of Patronage: Expenditure Patterns in the Argentine Provinces, 1983–2003


Karen L. Remmer is professor of political science, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708.


Under what conditions do politicians emphasize patronage allocations over the provision of public goods? Building upon research on democratic policy management, this paper aims to improve our understanding of patronage politics by focusing upon the political incentives influencing the ability and willingness of politicians to target public sector allocations to political supporters. Drawing upon data on spending priorities at the provincial level in post-1983 Argentina, the statistical analysis provides evidence that the relative importance of patronage allocations fluctuates with partisanship, electoral cycles, revenue sources, and public sector investment in economic development. The findings underline important and largely neglected parallels between clientelistic and programmatic politics and thereby have important implications for the study of the political economy of democracy.