Vote-Buying and Reciprocity


  • Frederico Finan,

    1. Dept. of Economics, University of California, Berkeley, 508-1 Evans Hall 3880, Berkeley, CA 94720-3880, U.S.A.;
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  • Laura Schechter

    1. Dept. of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 427 Lorch St., 334 Taylor Hall, Madison, WI 53706, U.S.A.;
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    • We thank the editor and four anonymous reviewers for several insightful comments that significantly improved the paper. We are also grateful to Idelin Molinas and everyone at Instituto Desarrollo for their support and advice while in Paraguay. We received helpful comments from Jennifer Alix-Garcia, Ernesto Dal Bó, Asim Khwaja, Rachid Laajaj, Ethan Ligon, John Morrow, Rohini Pande, Alessandro Tarozzi, and seminar participants at Duke, Michigan State, MWIEDC, Ohio State, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Texas A&M, University of Maryland, and Yale. Schechter thanks the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Delta Foundation for funding.


While vote-buying is common, little is known about how politicians determine who to target. We argue that vote-buying can be sustained by an internalized norm of reciprocity. Receiving money engenders feelings of obligation. Combining survey data on vote-buying with an experiment-based measure of reciprocity, we show that politicians target reciprocal individuals. Overall, our findings highlight the importance of social preferences in determining political behavior.