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How Clients Select Brokers: Competition and Choice in India's Slums

  • ADAM MICHAEL AUERBACH (a1) and TARIQ THACHIL (a2)
Abstract

Conventional models of clientelism often assume poor voters have little or no choice over which local broker to turn to for help. Yet communities in many clientelistic settings are marked by multiple brokers who compete for a following. Such competition makes client choices, and the preferences guiding such choices, pivotal in fueling broker support. We examine client preferences for a pervasive broker—slum leaders—in the context of urban India. To identify resident preferences for slum leaders, we conducted an ethnographically informed conjoint survey experiment with 2,199 residents across 110 slums in two Indian cities. Contra standard emphases on shared ethnicity, we find residents place heaviest weight on a broker's capability to make claims on the state. A survey of 629 slum leaders finds client-preferred traits distinguish brokers from residents. In highlighting processes of broker selection, and the client preferences that undergird them, we underscore the centrality of clients in shaping local brokerage environments.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Adam Michael Auerbach is an Assistant Professor, School of International Service, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20016 (aauerba@american.edu)
Tariq Thachil is an Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Vanderbilt University, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville, TN 37203 (tariq.thachil@vanderbilt.edu)
Footnotes
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This study was preregistered with Evidence in Governance and Politics (20150619AA) and received IRB approval from American University (15098) and Yale University (1504015671). The authors thank Ameya Balsekar, Leticia Bode, Natalia Bueno, Aditya Dasgupta, Agustina Giraudy, Anirudh Krishna, Gareth Nellis, Irfan Nooruddin, David Ohls, Kelly Rader, Mark Schneider, Susan Stokes, Yuhki Tajima, Emmanuel Teitelbaum, Milan Vaishnav, Michael Walton, Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro, Ashutosh Varshney, Erik Wibbels, Adam Ziegfeld, and seminar participants at American University; the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi; Duke University; Georgetown University; Harvard University; MIT; the New School; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Yale University. Ved Prakash Sharma and the MORSEL survey team provided excellent research assistance. This research was funded by American University, Vanderbilt University, and Yale University. Replication files are available on the American Political Science Review Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/RUQ2KP.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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