A Political Economy Explanation for In-kind Redistribution: The Interplay of Corruption and Democracy
This paper identifies a novel political-economy explanation for the observed variation in the cash and in-kind (basic health care, public housing or food stamps) mixture of social transfers. We put forward the hypothesis that the share of in-kind transfers is positively correlated with corruption in democratic countries. The argument is derived in a theoretical model which assumes that it is easier for politicians to appropriate cash transfers than in-kind transfers. Voters in corrupt countries know that cash transfers invite corrupt behavior and therefore they elect parties that opt for in-kind redistributive measures. The empirical analysis for 34 OECD countries over the 1984 – 2007 period provides robust evidence in favor of this hypothesis. Moreover, the positive correlation between the in-kind share of social transfers and perceived corruption is stronger for the “most democratic” OECD countries and in countries with specific institutional characteristics such as free media that further enhance democratic accountability.
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