Incentives for Organizational Participation: A Recruitment Experiment in Mexico

Prepared for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Western Political Science Association San Diego, Calif.

Brian Palmer-Rubin Marquette University

Candelaria Garay Harvard Kennedy School

Mathias Poertner University of California, Berkeley

This paper presents novel experimental evidence on the conditions under which citizens join interest organizations in democracies with weak institutions. We presented 1,400 citizens in two Mexican states with fliers promoting a new local interest organization to them. These posters contain one of four randomly selected appeals to encourage recruitment. We find strong evidence in favor of selective material incentives as a recruitment appeal. We further analyze response rates by prior organizational contact, finding evidence for a “particularistic socialization” effect wherein organizational experience is associated with greater response to selective material benefits and less response to purposive incentives. This effect is most pronounced among higher-income respondents, counter existing theories suggesting higher demand for patronage among the poor. Our findings show that under some conditions, rather than generating norms of other regarding, interest organizations can reinforce members’ individualistic tendencies.

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