To bridge the gap between citizens and government, GOV/LAB is increasingly focusing on government behavior. We are interested in better understanding how local-level bureaucrats and front-line service providers behave and what incentivizes them to be more transparent and more responsive to citizen needs. By examining how and why local officials act, we hope to help our partners design better accountability interventions.

One example of this work is Tesalia Rizzo’s dissertation research in Mexico partnering with Observatorio de Desarrollo Regional y Promoción Social (ODP), a local civil society organization working on participatory governance. The study makes use of a detailed surveys conducted in 150 villages in the state of Yucatan that capture, among other things, what citizens perceived were the most serious problems communities face.

In a follow-up study conducted by Daniel Hidalgo, Tesalia Rizzo and Lily Tsai, we surveyed over 500 village and municipality authorities in Yucatan. To understand whether local authorities agree with citizen priorities, we asked officials the same questions we posed citizens. The next step will be analyzing how citizen and government perspectives align.

Guillermo Toral’s research explores how politicians strategically use patronage systems, and how these strategies shape local governance in the context of Brazilian municipal governments. Using administrative micro-level datasets, surveys, and in-depth interviews, he studies the local politics around hiring.

We are now working to build out this research area with partners in the field and with scholars through our annual conference on the political behavior of development.

Image from Mexico. Credit: Tesalia Rizzo.