Urbanization Patterns, Information Diffusion and Female Voting in Rural Paraguay

 AJPS Author Summary of “Urbanization Patterns, Information Diffusion and Female Voting in Rural Paraguay” by Alberto Chong, Gianmarco LeónCiliotta,  Vivian Roza, Martín Valdivia, and Gabriela Vega


While the role of social interactions as a vehicle to boost the impact of information campaigns is not a new one, evidence on whether information spreads through social networks and is able to generate behavioral changes is mixed, and this is particularly the case for interventions seeking to boost electoral participation (Sinclair et al 2012, Fafchamps et al. 2018, Gine and Mansuri 2017.) Understanding how social interactions help spread information and generate behavioral change provides insights on the relevance of social networks in the design of public policies. Information exchanges among friends and neighbors, or through role models may help spread the information within a locality, and the quality of such interactions is in turn affected by cultural or ethnic similarities or spatial proximity.

In Chong et al (2018), we present evidence of the relevance of urbanization patterns in mediating the effects of two distinct get-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaigns to boost registration and turnout among women in rural Paraguay. We use individual-level administrative registration and voting data, survey information, and satellite images, and exploit a particularity in urbanization patterns in rural Paraguay: some localities have a clear center, surrounded by houses and agricultural land in the outskirts (non-linear localities), while others are long lanes, along which houses are sparsely distributed with agricultural land as backyards (linear localities).

Prior to the 2013 presidential elections, we randomly assigned rural localities to one of two commonly used methods for running information and political campaigns: non-partisan public rallies (PR) and door-to-door (D2D) canvassing. PRs are a relatively inexpensive way to reach large audiences, and while somewhat impersonal, are an appealing option and are widely used in political and information campaigns. Despite their popularity, very few studies have assessed their impact. On the other hand, D2D campaigns, while more capital and labor intensive, may be more effective due to the closer human contact and the possibility that they generate information spillovers. The trade-off between a mobilization campaign that involves a more impersonal approach, which allows higher reach at a relatively lower cost, and one that is a more personal and interactive one, but has less coverage and is more expensive, is at the core of our research and sheds light on the conditions affecting mobilization efforts’ effectiveness.

In both treatments, we provided information related to registration and the importance of voting. The experiment was designed to estimate spillover effects by randomly varying the intensity of the D2D treatment. We find that neither intervention led to increases in voter registration, but while PRs show small and insignificant effects on voting, face-to-face interactions significantly increased turnout among treated women. Interestingly, we find evidence of spillover effects that leads to higher turnout only in localities with urbanization patterns that appear to favor social interactions and information diffusion (linear localities). These spillover effects are more important for treated women (reinforcement effect) than for untreated women (diffusion effects.) Overall, our results suggest that the design of GOTV campaigns should consider the spatial constraints that affect the frequency and quality of social interactions within a locality, and therefore could limit the extent of spillovers effects.

About the Authors: Alberto Chong is a Professor in the Department of Economics at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and holds a joint appointment with the College of Education and Human Development; Gianmarco LeónCiliotta is an Associate Professor at the Department of Economics and Business at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, an Affiliated Professor at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics and at IPEG-Barcelona, and a Research Affiliate at CEPR; Vivian Roza is a Program Coordinator at Inter-American Development Bank; Martín Valdivia is a Senior Researcher at the Group for the Analysis of Development; Gabriela Vega is the Social Development Principal Specialist at the Gender and Diversity Division of the Inter-American Development Bank. Their research “Urbanization Patterns, Information Diffusion and Female Voting in Rural Paraguay (https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12404)” is now available online in Early View and will be published in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.


Chong, Alberto , Gianmarco León, Vivian Roza, Martín Valdivia, and Gabriela Vega (2018) “Urbanization Patterns, Information Diffusion and Female Voting in Rural Paraguay,” American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming.

Fafchamps, Marcel, Pedro Vicente and Ana Vaz (2018) “Voting and Peer Effects: Experimental Evidence from Mozambique.” Economic Development and Cultural Change, forthcoming.

Gine, Xavier, and Ghazala Mansuri (2017). “Together we will: experimental evidence on female voting behavior in Pakistan.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

Sinclair, Betsy, Donald Green and Margaret McConnell (2012). “Detecting Spillover Effects: Design and Analysis of Multilevel Experiments,” American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 56 (4): 1055–1069

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The American Journal of Political Science (AJPS) is the flagship journal of the Midwest Political Science Association and is published by Wiley.

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