Date of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Political Science and Economics, PhD interfield


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Melissa Rogers

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Pierre Englebert

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Pierangelo De Pace

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2019 Alma A. Bezares Calderón


This dissertation focuses on three main topics: state capacity, conflict and development. During my progress in my program, I have become more interested in these issues as I have seen how closely linked they are and how they help to explore questions related to prosperity, or the lack of thereof. In particular, my research, and more precisely this dissertation, concentrates on the connection among these three issues in low- and middle-income countries. In the first chapter, titled ”How Strong is your Shield? Subnational State Capacity and Violence in Mexico” I center the analysis on the case of Mexico, a middle-income country that has been characterized by high levels of drug-related violence in the last few years. I explore how violence directly affects economic and social prosperity, and how does subnational state capacity can mitigate these effects. I then look at how persistent violence deteriorates state capacity. Overall, I find that high levels of capacity isolate the population from the negative effects of high violence. However, persistent violence deteriorates capacity, thus leaving less room for policymakers to react to violence. The second and third chapter of the dissertation focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a fragile state that underwent a decentralization process in which the country passed from having 11 provinces to 26. Chapter 2 of the dissertation, titled ”Is Local Governance a Possibility after Decentralization? The Case of the DRC”, explores the role that patronage plays in extending the horizons of the local governments and what does this mean for the investment on local capacity, in a place where there is a degree of zero capacity. This chapter is a modified version of a working paper written in collaboration with Pierre Englebert. He has largely contributed to the development of the theoretical argument of the paper and I am highly indebted to him for his immense assistance. I am also grateful to my colleague Lisa Jene and to Balthazar Ngoy Kimpulwa, Georges Kasongo Kalumba and Eric Ndai Nonga, who were crucial collaborators in the research on decentralization in the DRC. This research was made possible by the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) of the Overseas Development Institute through funding provided by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID). Finally, Chapter 3, titled Découpage and Conflict in the DRC also looks at the découpage process in the DRC but searches to find how, if at all, this process affected the levels of conflict that persist in the country. My findings indicate that découpage in the DRC helped to isolate the areas with lower levels of conflict from those that show a higher number of conflict events. In addition, I show how more ethnic heterogeneity leads to higher instability and that these effects are more persistent in places with lower levels of wealth. Overall, the three papers help to shed some light on the effects that violence, fragility and a predatory regime have on prosperity at the subnational level. With this, I expect to contribute to the literature on economic development, political economy and comparative politics.