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Differentiated Distribution for Authoritarian Stability in Ethnically-Divided Countries Open Access

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New African authoritarian regimes have emerged and maintained power for long periods since the promise of democratization in the early 1990s. A single ethnic group holds the most powerful positions in many of these governments, yet they endure despite excluding large ethnic groups and introducing elections. In this dissertation, I ask: how do single ethnicity authoritarian governments distribute resources strategically in order to maintain public support in ethnically-divided contexts?To answer this question, I advance a novel theory of differentiated distribution. This co-optation strategy maximizes support while minimizing risks by exploiting the specific properties of different types of goods. I predict that regimes target durable public goods that provide long-term capacity to coethnics and allies that they trust. In contrast, they buy the support of adversarial and non-salient groups with non-durable private transfers that can be swiftly stopped. I also predict that recipients understand the different properties of these goods and respond to receipt accordingly.I find support for my theory using original survey data from over 400 households and over 70 interviews with government and non-government actors in Uganda. Counter to conventional assumptions about coethnic favoritism by African presidents, however, I find that allies receive most public goods and adversaries receive most private goods. It is therefore important to avoid binary distinctions between coethnics and non-coethnics of a regime and instead to explore heterogeneity between non-coethnic groups. My findings also have implications for development and stability—while these regimes share resources beyond their own group, long-term restriction of durable goods from some groups may create inequality and resentment.

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