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Personalization of Power and Social Welfare Spending under Dictatorships: A Cross-Country Analysis



Conventional wisdom posits that democracies have more social welfare expenditure than dictatorships because electoral competition induces democratic leaders to adopt social policies in exchange for ordinary citizens' political support. However, as elections are absent, unfree, and/or unfair in autocracies, the research question in this paper is: How does the distribution of power between dictators and their allies influence welfare spending? This paper discusses the power-sharing structure's impact on welfare spending based on the theory of power-sharing in authoritarian regimes. When power is less personalized, dictators face the risk of being replaced by other elites. We argue that dictators allocate resources to citizens through welfare policies in exchange for their political support. Increasing personalism rules will reduce welfare spending when power is concentrated on dictators. We test our arguments using time-series cross-sectional data for 90 dictatorships from 1961 to 2006. We find that total welfare spending decreases as the personalization of power of the dictator increases. This effect is robust to different model specifications. This finding helps us to understand the connection between the personalization of power and welfare spending in dictatorships. This paper contributes to the literature by showing that welfare spending is determined by regime leaders' need for public support as the conventional wisdom suggests, and by the power dynamics within their ruling coalitions in dictatorships.

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