Medellín's government wanted to raise its efficacy, legitimacy, and control. The city identified 80 neighborhoods with weak state presence and competing armed actors. In half, they increased nonpolice street presence tenfold for two years, offering social services and dispute resolution. In places where the state was initially weakest, the intervention did not work, mainly because the government struggled to deliver on its promises. Where the state began stronger, the government raised opinions of its services and legitimacy. If there are indeed low marginal returns to investing in capacity in the least-governed areas, this could produce increasing returns to statebuilding.

Christopher BlattmanGustavo DuncanBenjamin LessingSantiago Tobón
Publication type: 
Working Paper
National Bureau of Economic Research
January 01, 2022