The Paradox of Poverty and Citizen Participation

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Poor people need to be assisted with social programs promoted by the government, which need to be determined through direct communication with them, but there is an apparent paradox between poverty and citizen participation in public decision-making processes. After analyzing a participatory budget process in a small rural parish in the Ecuadorian Andes through the logical framework approach, logit model, and Boolean algebra, we found evidence that when extreme poverty and very pronounced trust in government institutions are combined, citizens choose not to participate. Difficulties of access to the meeting place faced by citizens play an important role. Previous experience in democratic processes did not lead to deviation from the logic of motivational theories. Trust was the only factor that reduced the probability of participation by 72 times in our models. Mothers of two or fewer children were most affected. Government officials must create political mechanisms that guarantee the participation of the poorest citizens so that the virtuous circle of participation/trust, which strengthens the democratic system, continues working well. Self-censorship, noninclusive mechanisms for vulnerable groups, and disguised discrimination are factors that should be explored in future research with other methodologies.