While voter turnout in this primary season in the United States remains paltry (25% in Idaho’s recent primary), two Boise State researchers have found that participation — in the form of popular, participatory budgeting programs practiced for just over two decades in Brazil — does matter. Brian Wampler and Mike Touchton, both political scientists, built a database of Brazilian municipalities with two decades of budget information and other infrastructure, health and education indicators and found that cities that engaged citizens in participatory budgeting had better overall outcomes that those that did not, particularly for the poor:
"At the broadest level, we argue the adoption of new subnational democratic institutions, which are explicitly designed to overcome the middle- and upper-class bias of representative democracy, help to increase human capabilities, and mitigate representative democracy’s pro-wealthy bias. By enhancing human capabilities, there is the potential to generate a virtuous cycle that allows citizens to pressure public officials to use public resources more efficiently and justly."
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