Inequality, political representation, and public goods provision: evidence from Colombia’s National Coffee Growers’ Federation

  • Uribe Castro, Mateo (PI)

Project: Research Project

Project Details


In this project I aim to study the relationship between inequality and the provision of public goods by looking at a historical case when a government outsourced both collection of some taxes and provision of some public goods to a private guild. In 1927, coffee producers in Colombia organized and formed the National Federation of Coffee Producers (FNC, for its name in Spanish). Its mission was to promote Colombian coffee abroad, disseminate knowledge about coffee production, and lobby the Colombian government for favorable policies. However, only a year after its formation the government authorized the FNC to collect and manage revenue from the export tariff on coffee. Over the years the FNC invested on different public goods not only related to the production of coffee like sewage systems of primary public schools. Historians have recognized the FNC’s role in the first half of the 20th century as a “parallel state” (Palacios, 2002).
An interesting feature of the FNC’s organization is its democratic structure. After its formation every coffee producer was issued a “cedula cafetera” (identification card), which allows them to vote for different representatives in the FNC. There were councils at the county level, followed by cabinets at the department (state) level, and a national council where Colombia’s Minister of Finance also sit.
Such setting is ideal for this project. I plan to study two research questions connected to the role of inequality on the formation of state capacity.
First, how does inequality determines political representation?
Second, how does inequality affect the type and quality of public goods provided by the State? At least in theory, what big landowners demand from the State is different from what poorer producers demand. Big landowners might prefer railroads over public education and sewage since they can potentially acquire those privately.

Commitments / Obligations

1. Article
2. Scientific disclosures
Effective start/end date2/1/211/31/23

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Main Funding Source

  • Competitive Funds
  • Starter Funds


  • Bogotá D.C.


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