Theses Doctoral

Economic Empowerment and Political Participation

Howard, Patrice Zakia

This study joins the growing research in social science centered on exploring the political implications of individual-targeted development programs by empirically examining the political behavior and attitudes of program participants. It also joins the established literatures in political theory and political science on what motivates individuals to become politically active, and the effect of economic inputs on an individual's propensity to engage in political activities. Using an original survey of more than 700 Senegalese citizens in the administrative department of Guediawaye, Senegal, the study finds that microfinance in Senegal is vastly different from more popular notions of microfinance. The overwhelming majority of microfinance clients in Senegal borrow as individuals, and not as members of groups. Both men and women are active in the micro-credit industry and more than 18% of adults in Senegal have experience with micro-credit loans.

By using econometric analysis to compare the political activities of microfinance borrowers and non-microfinance borrowers, group and individual microfinance borrowers, and pre-microfinance borrowing political participation to post-microfinance political participation, this study offers a more nuanced and accurate understanding of the relationship of microfinance to political participation. It explores how ideas of political and economic empowerment and what motivates people to become politically active translates across different contexts. The study concludes that microfinance is positively and significantly associated with political participation, and social capital, that microfinance and the various forms of social capital matter more for some forms of participation than for others, and that microfinance experience does not systematically cause an increase in political participation, through social capital or any other mechanism.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Humphreys, Macarten N.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 14, 2012