The Fiscal Consequences of Electoral Institutions
AbstractThere are more than 500,000 elected officials in the United States, 96 percent of whom serve in local governments. Electoral density—the number of elected officials per capita or per governmental unit—varies greatly from place to place. The most electorally dense county has more than 20 times the average number of elected officials per capita. In this paper, we offer the first systematic investigation of the link between electoral density and fiscal policy. Drawing on principal-agent theories of representation, we argue that electoral density presents a tradeoff between accountability and monitoring costs. Increasing the number of specialized elected offices promotes issue unbundling, reducing slack between citizen preferences and government policy; but the costs of monitoring a larger number of officials may offset these benefits, producing greater latitude for politicians to pursue their own goals at the expense of citizen interests. Thus, we predict diminishing returns to electoral density, suggesting a U-shaped relationship between the number of local officials and government fidelity to citizen preferences. Using a county-level dataset of all elected officials in the United States, we evaluate this theory along with competing theories from the existing literature. Empirically, we find evidence that public sector size decreases with electoral density up to a point, beyond which budgets grow as more officials are added within a community.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago in its series Working Papers with number 0713.
Date of creation: May 2007
Date of revision:
local government; elected officials; efficiency; funding;
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2008-05-31 (All new papers)
- NEP-CDM-2008-05-31 (Collective Decision-Making)
- NEP-PBE-2008-05-31 (Public Economics)
- NEP-POL-2008-05-31 (Positive Political Economics)
You can help add them by filling out this form.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Eleanor Cartelli) The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask Eleanor Cartelli to update the entry or send us the correct address.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.