MPSA 2011

This weekend I will be attending the 2011 Midwest Political Science Association Conference, in Chicago. You can find the preliminary program and lots of interesting papers here.  These are the abstracts of the papers that I will deliver at the conference.

“Gender Quotas are not Enough: How Background Experience and Campaigning Affect Electoral Outcomes”, with Joy Langston (session 4-2).

This paper asks why women politicians tend to do worse in SMD districts than in their PR counterparts, even with gender quotas. Mexico is an excellent case to study this phenomenon because it has a PR and a SMD tier, both with a quota rule, and a ban on consecutive reelection that limits the effects of incumbency advantage.  This setting allows us to explore a key difference between SMD and closed list PR seats, which is campaigning.  While most women certainly are sent to losing SMD districts in Mexico, we cannot know conclusively whether party leaders ignore quality female candidates in competitive and bastion areas in favor of their male co-partisans. This paper, instead, turned to the issue of background experience and found that indeed, while a gender gap exists in the aggregate voting numbers; its effects are mitigated once prior experience is taken into account.  We use interviews with winning and losing candidates of both genders to understand exactly how prior backgrounds can help a SMD candidate.  We found that legislative campaigns in Mexico depend heavily on the ability of the deputy hopeful to procure local political brokers who are able to control or mobilize blocks of voters. Moreover, the candidate’s prior experience in the locality helps create a valuable reputation for access to government services that these brokers need to deliver selective goods to their followers.

“Top-down of bottom-up? Clientelism and collective remittances in Mexico”, with Covadonga Meseguer (session 14-15).

In Mexico, the 3×1 Program for Migrants matches by three the amounts that HTAs send back to their localities to invest in public projects. In previous quantitative research, we found that PAN-ruled municipalities were more likely to participate in the program, controlling for a number of factors. However, once selected into the Program, political strongholds of any municipal party receive more funds per capita. The political bias in participation and fund allocation may be due to two possible mechanisms: HTAs decisions to invest in some municipalities but not others may reflect migrants‘ preferences (a bottom-up or demand driven bias). On the other hand, it may be the case that government officials use the Program to direct funds according to their own political objectives (a top-down bias). To disentangle which of these two mechanisms is at work, we studied a 2×2 matrix of statistically selected cases of high migration municipalities in the state of Guanajuato. We carried out over 60 semi-structured interviews to state and municipal Program administrators, local politicians, and migrant leaders from these municipalities. Our qualitative study indicates that, even though migrant leaders are clearly pragmatic, the political bias of the Program is more likely to be driven by politicians‘ preferences. Moreover, these biases are reinforced by the coordination requirements of the program itself. This study raises obvious concerns about the ability of this type of matching grant programs to reach the areas where public resources are needed the most.

This year is a special occasion for me because both papers are qualitative in nature, and they are both based on a series of in-depth interviews with legislative candidates on the one hand, and with municipal and migrant leaders on the other. Of course, we had to run  some regressions before we selected our cases. More on this later because I have a flight to catch.