Outside Funding and the Dynamics of Participation in Community Associations


  • The authors thank the Social Capital Initiative of the World Bank and the National Bureau of Economic Research for funding. We also thank the staff of ICS for their participation and support of this project, especially Chip Bury, Robert Namunyu, Moses Osia, and Sylvie Moulin. This article has benefited from research assistance from David Evans, Nava Ashraf, Stephen Barham, and Maria Gomez. We thank Ben Olken and Dan Wood for suggestions on the model. We thank David Evans, Archon Fung, Jennifer Hochschild, Jessica Leino, Malgosia Madajewicz, Edward Miguel, Aseem Prakash, and participants at conferences at the World Bank Research Department, Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD), and the Working Group on African Political Economy at UCLA for helpful comments.

Mary Kay Gugerty is assistant professor of political science, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington, Box 353055, Seattle, WA 98117 (gugerty@u.washington.edu). Michael Kremer is Gates Professor of Developing Societies, Harvard University, Littauer M-20, Cambridge, MA 02138 (mkremer@fas.harvard.edu).


The poor and disadvantaged are widely seen as having weak organizations and low rates of participation in community associations, impeding their political representation and economic advancement. Many policy initiatives aim to build civic participation among the disadvantaged by funding local community associations. Taking advantage of random assignment in a program supporting women's community associations in Kenya, we find little evidence that outside funding expanded organizational strength, but substantial evidence that funding changed group membership and leadership, weakening the role of the disadvantaged. The program led younger, more educated, and better-off women to enter the groups. New entrants, men, and more educated women assumed leadership positions. The departure of older women, the most socially marginalized demographic group, increased substantially. The results are generalized through a formal model showing how democratic decision making by existing members of community associations can generate long-run outcomes in which the poor and disadvantaged either do not belong to any associations or belong to weak organizations.