Size and Participatory Democracy: Evidence from Brazil's Municipal Health Councils
How does local context condition the implementation of top-down participatory initiatives? Consistent with a long tradition of research linking size and democracy, I find that population size plays a powerful role in shaping how actors adapt participatory institutions to fit local contexts. Drawing on original evidence from Brazil’s municipal health councils, I demonstrate that councils in larger municipalities are more internally complex and autonomous from elected officials, but also less inclusive—particularly with regards to class and gender. These patterns shed light on the challenges to scaling up direct citizen participation, and suggest that research on the consequences of participatory institutions should pay more attention to heterogeneity across contexts.
Peter Johannessen (PhD, Princeton University), a 2017–18 Kellogg visiting fellow, is a political scientist who studies decentralization and the political economy of development with a regional focus on Latin America. His research draws on evidence from Brazil to explore how popular participation shapes the local policymaking process in developing countries...