Social Transfers and Political Participation: Evidence from Mali and Ghana

Marina Dodlova (Aix-Marseille, Passau University, GIGA Hamburg)

Abstract: We explore how political participation is affected by pro-poor policy choices. We argue that social transfer programs may affect political attitudes and behaviour, especially if these programs substantially increase the citizens' living standards. Using the Afrobarometer data for Ghana and Mali in 2001 and 2008 it can be shown that political participation decreases only in regions where social transfer programs have been implemented. Applying a difference-in-differences design allows capturing such a strategic effect of pro-poor policy. Hence, pro-poor policies - even if primarily aimed at health care and education improvement - may have additional impacts on the citizens' political behaviour, in particular on their political participation. Social transfers may hence act as a tool to please the voters and buy public support.