Do Political Preferences Affect Policy Learning and Uptake? Evidence from a Field Experiment with Informal Entrepreneurs
Cesar Zucco, Anna-Katharina Lenz, Rafael Goldszmidt, and Martin Valdivia
The Journal of Politics Volume 85, Issue 3 (July 2023)
We examine whether political preferences affect uptake and learning about government programs in the context of Brazil’s Individual Microentrepreneur Program, which offers subsidized access to social security coverage and business-related incentives. We fielded a randomized intervention that provided one-on-one consultancy and assistance to informal entrepreneurs. Treatment increased formalization rates, but we found only weak evidence that supporters of the enacting president were more likely than detractors to take it up. Stressing that political origins of the program slightly decreased differences in take-up between these two groups. We also show that detractors learned much more about the formalization program than supporters when the program’s political connections were mentioned, implying that supporters formalized at higher rates given similar levels of knowledge. While it is possible to increase uptake by providing information and assistance, political endorsements seem to function as a substitute for knowledge acquisition and ultimately have conflicting effects on uptake.