Although a long tradition of research shows that the correlation between economic growth and well-being is imperfect, the sociology of development continues to focus on economic growth. In this paper we take a first step toward a sociology of social development by defining which indicators other than economic growth best capture different facets of citizen well-being, theorizing what social phenomena explain the variance in these indicators, and specifying causal mechanisms that connect the two. We show quantitatively that one main predictor of social development is basic sanitation, and that a key correlate of poor sanitation is corruption in law enforcement. We use direct measures of experiences with corruption, rather than subjective measures of perceptions of corruption. We then draw on qualitative data to suggest why and how corruption in the judiciary enables poor sanitation. Where the state does not efficiently deliver municipal services, intermediaries facilitate illegal access to services, and can only perform their work if law enforcement can be bribed. But by providing access to some citizens and not all, these intermediaries fragment citizens’ interests. Politics develops around lines of patronage rather than programmatic policies, and those who do not have the material resources to bypass the poor municipal systems, or the political resources to participate in patronage, are left without access to basic sanitation.

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