Voice, Votes, and Resources: Evaluating the Effect of Participatory Democracy on Well-Being

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Participatory governance is said to enhance governance, citizens’ empowerment, and the quality of democracy, creating a virtuous cycle to improve the well-being of the poor. However, there is limited empirical evidence for this relationship. Drawing from an original database of Brazil’s 220 largest cities, we assess whether the adoption of a participatory budgeting (PB) program is associated with changes in social spending or changes in several indicators of well-being. We find that PB municipalities spend a slightly higher share of their budget on health and education programs, but there is little evidence that this shift in budget priorities affects measurable outcomes.