Erik Wibbels helps answer: "How are development projects allocated to different communities?"
Local politicians and bureaucrats in low- and middle-income countries play a crucial role in the distribution of aid dollars, acting as gatekeepers in determining which constituents receive aid, and to what degree that assistance is effective. In Ghana for example, district governments spend about 80 percent of their budgets on development projects, including schools, health clinics, etc.
There are many theories about why politicians choose to distribute aid in the ways they do, but little evidence to support one theory over another. Part of the reason is that it’s hard to distinguish when a politician builds a road to reward “core” supporters as opposed to when they build a road to convince “swing” voters that they should vote for her/him. If we, the researchers, measure support only after the election, the two might be indistinguishable. Using Ghana as our test case – a country we know well – we’re generating new research that addresses this empirical shortfall.