Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Andy Baker

Second Advisor

Krister Andersson

Third Advisor

David Brown

Fourth Advisor

Amy Liu

Fifth Advisor

Tim Weston


Why do governments succeed in delivering services to some communities but not to others? To assess the factors that explain cross-community variation in public goods provision, I examine government spending on water infrastructure and drinking water outcomes in China. I find that connections from villagers to individuals and officials outside the village affect drinking water provision. Despite the lack of elections and associated need to cater to voter demands, the Chinese government spends more on water provision to the politically dominant ethnic group. I find that the dominant group is favored because officials rely on network connections for policy implementation and spending decisions. In addition, counter to the conventional wisdom that migration disrupts local public service delivery, I find that labor migration out of the villages helps to attract, not discourage, outside investment for public goods provision because migration builds know-how, increases accountability, and extends social networks beyond the village. Effective public goods provision is most likely where there are collaborative relations among villagers and between the village community and the government. I support these arguments with quantitative and qualitative analyses of a survey of rural villages and a dataset of public works projects.