Electoral competition increases enrollment in public day care centers
Research detected an effect in municipalities with two rounds of mayoral races
Children in a municipal daycare center in the city of Alagoinhas, Bahia
In cities where the election for mayor occurs in two rounds, the proportion of enrollments in public day care centers exceeds that of municipalities with similar characteristics, but which elect the local chief executive in only one ballot.
The relationship between greater political competition, on the one hand, and the expansion of the supply of public goods, on the other, has been accumulating in the specialized literature. Raquel Tebaldi (researcher at the United Nations University in Maastricht, Holland) and Alysson Portella (researcher at Insper) have found this effect for Brazilian municipal daycare centers for children up to 3 years old.
The study took advantage of an arbitrary cut made by the Constitution, which establishes two-round elections for municipalities with more than 200,000 registered voters. Municipalities with less than 200,000 registered voters practice a single round of voting.
The hypothesis is that cities just above and just below the cutoff do not differ substantially from each other. This proximity gradient creates a situation similar to that of a classic scientific experiment, with cities below the cutoff acting as a control group to evaluate the effect of the two shifts on the municipalities above it.
That two-round elections sharpen the dispute, raising the number of candidates, is a fact that has been attested in other studies on the subject and was once again verified in Raquel and Alysson’s analysis, which comprised elections from 1996 to 2016.
To test its main hypothesis – that this sharpening of the partisan clash, by expanding the electorate necessary for victory, leads to the fulfillment of the demand for day care centers by broader and more diffuse portions of the population – the study evaluated the enrollment rate and municipal spending on schools for children up to 3 years old.
In cities with a second round of voting, the econometric analysis found coverage of the eligible public in daycare centers three percentage points higher than in municipalities just below the 200,000-voter cutoff. This is a substantial effect, given the average of 8% enrollment in this age group, where there is no legal obligation of universal service.
The effect was unique to public municipal daycare centers, which circumscribes the impact of local elections. A more discrete increase in spending by municipal treasuries on daycare centers was also detected, although this result was less robust to the study’s robustness tests.