Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 March 2020
We present evidence on the distributive politics of social transfers implemented in the context of a capable bureaucracy and the absence of a clientelistic machine-party system; where the usual distinction between “core” and “swing” voter investments falls short. Using evidence from Chile, the paper illustrates a selective distributive politics scenario in which, at the margins of fair socioeconomic targeting, incumbents might seek to enhance their political returns by implementing a highly diversified investment portfolio that includes the pursuit of both electoral and non-electoral goals. Non-electoral goals might be more effectively accomplished through selective distributive politics. The empirical evidence is based on a series of seemingly unrelated-regression models generated using a database on the allocations of six different social programs in 345 municipalities over a nine-year period. Our findings and theory discourage the mechanical translation of investment rationales across cases, while promoting a broader and more contextualized analysis of distributive politics.