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Patronage and Elections in U.S. States


Does control of patronage jobs significantly increase a political party's chances of winning elections in U.S. states? We employ a differences-in-differences design, exploiting the considerable variation in the dates that different states adopted civil service reforms. Our evidence suggests that political parties in U.S. states were able to use state-level patronage to increase the probability of maintaining control of state legislatures and statewide elective offices. We also find that an “entrenched” party, in power for a longer time, can use patronage more effectively. We consider several alternative hypotheses that might plausibly account for the patterns in the data, but find no evidence to support them.

Corresponding author
Olle Folke is Assistant Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, and Affiliated Researcher, IFN Stockholm, 420 W. 118th Street, New York, NY 10027 (
Shigeo Hirano is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Columbia University, 420 W. 118th Street, New York, NY 10027 (
James M. Snyder, Jr. is Professor, Department of Government, Harvard University, and Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research, 1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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