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Direct Democracy and Public Employees

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  • John G. Matsusaka

Abstract

In the public sector, employment may be inefficiently high because of patronage, and wages may be inefficiently high because of public employee interest groups. This paper explores whether the initiative process, a direct democracy institution of growing importance, ameliorates these political economy problems. In a sample of 650+ cities, I find that when public employees cannot bargain collectively and patronage could be a problem, initiatives appear to cut employment but not wages. When public employees bargain collectively, driving up wages, the initiative appears to cut wages but not employment. The employment-cutting result is robust; the wage-cutting result survives some but not all robustness tests. (JEL D72, J31, J45, J52)

Suggested Citation

  • John G. Matsusaka, 2009. "Direct Democracy and Public Employees," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 2227-2246, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:99:y:2009:i:5:p:2227-46
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.99.5.2227
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lars P. Feld & Gebhard Kirchgassner, 1999. "Public Debt and Budgetary Procedures: Top Down or Bottom Up? Some Evidence from Swiss Municipalities," NBER Chapters,in: Fiscal Institutions and Fiscal Performance, pages 151-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 2003. "Political Institutions and Policy Choices: Evidence from the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 7-73, March.
    3. Farnham, Paul G, 1990. "The Impact of Citizen Influence on Local Government Expenditure," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 64(3), pages 201-212, March.
    4. Dye, Richard F. & McGuire, Therese J., 1997. "The effect of property tax limitation measures on local government fiscal behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 469-487, December.
    5. Babcock, Linda C & Engberg, John & Glazer, Amihai, 1997. "Wages and Employment in Public-Sector Unions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(3), pages 532-543, July.
    6. Feld, Lars P. & Kirchgassner, Gebhard, 2000. "Direct democracy, political culture, and the outcome of economic policy: a report on the Swiss experience," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 287-306, June.
    7. Feld, Lars P. & Matsusaka, John G., 2003. "Budget referendums and government spending: evidence from Swiss cantons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2703-2724, December.
    8. Gary S. Becker, 1983. "A Theory of Competition Among Pressure Groups for Political Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(3), pages 371-400.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Lu, Xun & White, Halbert, 2014. "Robustness checks and robustness tests in applied economics," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 178(P1), pages 194-206.
    2. Ernesto Calvo & Gergely Ujhelyi, 2012. "Political Screening: Theory and Evidence from the Argentine Public Sector," Working Papers 201303201, Department of Economics, University of Houston.
    3. Ramos, Miguel A. & Ashby, Nathan J., 2013. "Heterogeneous firm response to organized crime: Evidence from FDI in Mexico," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 176-194.
    4. John Matsusaka, 2014. "Disentangling the direct and indirect effects of the initiative process," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 160(3), pages 345-366, September.
    5. Asatryan, Zareh & De Witte, Kristof, 2015. "Direct democracy and local government efficiency," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 58-66.
    6. Zareh Asatryan, 2016. "The indirect effects of direct democracy: local government size and non-budgetary voter initiatives in Germany," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 23(3), pages 580-601, June.
    7. Naughton, James & Petacchi, Reining & Weber, Joseph, 2015. "Public pension accounting rules and economic outcomes," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 221-241.
    8. Asatryan, Zareh, 2014. "The indirect effects of direct democracy: Local government size and non-budgetary voter initiatives," ZEW Discussion Papers 14-004, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    9. Blume Lorenz & Döring Thomas & Voigt Stefan, 2008. "Fiskalische Effekte der Kommunalverfassungsreformen der 1990er Jahre in Deutschland / Reforming Local Constitutions in Germany during the 1990s – Their Fiscal Effects," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 228(4), pages 317-344, August.
    10. Libman, Alexander, 2009. "Essays on Asymmetric Federalism," MPRA Paper 21591, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. repec:kap:pubcho:v:174:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11127-017-0486-0 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets
    • J52 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Dispute Resolution: Strikes, Arbitration, and Mediation

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