Political Power, Elite Control, and Long-Run Development: Evidence from Brazil


Wednesday, February 6, 2019, 12:00pm to 2:00pm


CGIS South, S050, 1730 Cambridge Street

Speaker: Monica Martinez-Bravo, Associate Professor at CEMFI; Associate Visiting Professor MIT

Moderator: Frances Hagopian, Jorge Paulo Lemann Senior Lecturer on Government at Harvard University and the Faculty Chair of the Brazil Studies Program

This paper studies the effects of local political concentration on long-run economic development in Brazil. Contrary to what is observed in other contexts and time periods, we document that municipalities with higher levels of political concentration prior to Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) achieved higher levels of development in the long-run. We argue that the attempts of the military to undermine the power of traditional elites generated positive dynamics in terms of economic development. As evidence of this, we show that the municipalities where power was concentrated in the hands of few traditional elites adopted political and economic policies that lowered the entry barriers to other political contestants, which resulted in lower levels of elite persistence over time. These findings suggest that policies that aim to increase the levels of political competition can be beneficial in the long-run, even if they are implemented during non-democratic regimes.

Monica Martinez-Bravo is an Associate Professor at CEMFI in Madrid, Spain. She received her Ph.D. in Economics from MIT in 2010. Before moving to CEMFI, she was Assistant Professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Monica is an Affiliate of the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD), the International Growth Center (IGC), and the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR).

Her research interests are in the fields of development economics and political economy. She has studied the determinants of the elite capture in consolidating democracies and the role of the quality of political representatives in public good provision. More recently, she started a number of projects joint with Claudio Ferraz and Federico Finan to study the long-run effects of elite capture during and after the Brazilian military dictatorship. She is also interested in studying the involvement in politics of the Brazilian Catholic Church during this period.

Monica’s research has been published in the American Economic Review, Econometrica, and American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.