Marcos Manuel Salgado - Building Loyalty through Personal Connections: Evidence from the Spanish Empire

Encina Hall West, Room 400 (Graham Stuart Lounge)
Marcos Manuel Salgado

How do rulers manage to govern when they cannot implement policy themselves and have limited means to monitor and even communicate with their agents? The personal loyalties of high-ranking officials can help overcome or exacerbate agency problems. The Spanish Empire promoted links between colonial officials and their superiors in Spain and discouraged social ties between them and local elites. I use superiors’ entries and exits as within-official shocks to connections to estimate their effect on promotions and performance. I find that connected ministers were more likely to be promoted and raised more revenue. On the other hand, ministers with more links to local elites collected less revenue. These patterns are explained by personal connections, defined as sustained in-person interactions during their early careers. I also validate the connections measure by showing that they predict endogenous acts of friendship.