We investigate the role of traditional governance institutions for public goods provision in Oaxaca, Mexico. Results show that communities ruled by traditional governance practices offer more effective provision of local public goods than equally poor communities ruled by political parties.
We explore whether traditional governance is better than partisan governments at providing public services and preventing both political parties and privileged elites from benefiting from public development projects.
In 1995, a constitutional reform formally validated the structures of traditional governments—better known as Usos y Costumbres—in most of the municipalities of Oaxaca, Mexico. In these types of structures, community assemblies, instead of mayors or local councils, make the most important budgetary decisions; citizens are obliged to perform tasks or duties for the provision of public goods, and conflicts are resolved through informal mediation by the community instead of through formal dispute mechanisms offered by the courts.
We use a multi-method research strategy composed of ethnographic work, a household survey on accountability and citizen participation in public affairs, and a statistical analysis of geographical discontinuities. Our analysis employs a causal identification strategy that compares public goods provision between communities that are very similar in sociodemographic and geographical terms, yet differ in the way they are governed.
The deep institutional differences between traditional and partisan forms of governance affect the provision of public goods through three mechanisms:
Magaloni, Beatriz, Alberto Diaz-Cayeros, Alexander Ruiz. (2019). “Public Good Provision and Traditional Governance in Indigenous Communities in Oaxaca, Mexico.” Comparative Political Studies 52(12): 1841-1880.