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Isolated Capital Cities, Accountability and Corruption Evidence from US States: Evidence from US States

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  • Filipe R Campante
  • Quoc-Anh Do

    (Département d'économie)

Abstract

We show that isolated capital cities are robustly associated with greater levels of corruption across US states, in line with the view that spatial distance between citizens and the seat of political power reduces accountability, and in contrast with the alternative hypothesis that keeping distance between the capital and major economic interests might decrease the risk of political capture. In particular, this stylized fact holds when we use the location of a state’s centroid and the spatial distribution of land suitability as sources of exogenous variation for the isolation of the capital city. We then show direct evidence that different mechanisms for holding state politicians accountable are indeed affected by the spatial distribution of population: newspapers provide greater coverage of state politics when their audiences are more concentrated around the capital, voters are less knowledgeable and interested in state politics when they are far from the capital, and voter turnout in state elections is greater in places that are closer to the capital. We find that the role of media accountability seems particularly important in explaining the connection between isolated capitals and corruption. We also find evidence that there is more money in state-level political campaigns in those states with isolated capitals, again contrary to the capture hypothesis. Finally, we provide some evidence that these patterns are associated with lower levels of public good spending and outcomes.

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Paper provided by Sciences Po Departement of Economics in its series Sciences Po Economics Discussion Papers with number 2013-01.

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Date of creation: Jan 2013
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Handle: RePEc:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/dambferfb7dfprc9lj6bo200k

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Web page: http://econ.sciences-po.fr/
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Keywords: Corruption; Accountability; Population Concentration; Capital Cities; Capture; US State Politics; Media; Newspapers; Turnout; Campaign Contributions; Public Good Provision;

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  1. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972, 08.
  2. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "What Drives Media Slant? Evidence from U.S. Daily Newspapers," NBER Working Papers 12707, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. James E. Alt & David Dreyer Lassen, 2010. "Enforcement and Public Corruption: Evidence from US States," EPRU Working Paper Series 2010-08, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  4. Glaeser, E.L. & Ades, A.F., 1993. "Trade and Circuses: Explaining Urban Giants," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1646, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  5. Filipe R. Campante & Quoc-Anh Do & Bernardo Guimaraes, 2013. "Isolated Capital Cities and Misgovernance: Theory and Evidence," Sciences Po publications 10, Sciences Po.
  6. Filipe R. Campante & Quoc-Anh Do, 2009. "A Centered Index of Spatial Concentration : Axiomatic Approach with an Application to Population and Capital Cities," Development Economics Working Papers 22059, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
  7. James E. Alt & David Dreyer Lassen, 2002. "The Political Economy of Institutions and Corruption in American States," EPRU Working Paper Series 02-16, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  8. Davis, James C. & Henderson, J. Vernon, 2003. "Evidence on the political economy of the urbanization process," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 98-125, January.
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