Journal Article

How Aid Targets Votes: The Impact of Electoral Incentives on Foreign Aid Distribution

Date Published

Apr 1, 2014


Ryan S. Jablonski


World Politics


Jablonski, R. S. (2014). How Aid Targets Votes: The Impact of Electoral Incentives on Foreign Aid Distribution. World Politics, 66(02), 293-330. doi:10.1017/s0043887114000045


Despite allegations that foreign aid promotes corruption and patronage, we know little about how recipient governmentsÕ electoral incentives influence aid spending. I propose a distributional politics model of aid spending in which governments use their informational advantages over donors in order to allocate a disproportionate share of aid to electorally strategic supporters, allowing governments to translate aid into votes. To evaluate this argument, I code data on the spatial distribution of multilateral donor projects in Kenya from 1992 to 2010 and show that Kenyan governments have consistently influenced the aid allocation process in favor of co-partisan and co-ethnic voters, a bias that holds for each of KenyaÕs last three regimes. I also confirm that aid distribution increases incumbent vote share. This evidence suggests that electoral motivations play a significant role in aid allocation and that distributional politics may help explain the gap between donor intentions and outcomes.

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Ryan Jablonski

Ryan Jablonski

Assistant Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science

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