We inventory more than 150 studies of distributive politics in more than three dozen countries other than the United States. We organize existing studies under two theories: theories of democratic accountability and theories of government responsiveness. Studies that concern democratic accountability conceptualize distributive allocations as attempts by politicians to protect themselves electorally by targeting specific groups of voters. We identify four subsets: () studies of whether politicians target goods to core or swing voters; () studies of general political favoritism in targeting government goods; () studies of whether goods are disbursed according to the electoral cycle; and () studies of whether elected officials gain votes from the disbursement of government goods. We illustrate each with examples from the literature. We then discuss distributive politics as responsiveness to the median voter. This perspective entails a focus on the redistributive consequences of government policy and investigates whether special interests capture a disproportionate share of goods coming from government. To illustrate the utility of both perspectives, we analyze original data on electricity provision in India's largest state.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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