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Fiscal Crises in the US Cities: Structural and Non-Structural Causes

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  • Guntram B Wolff

Abstract

Financial difficulties of the US cities have recently become a major issue of concern. However, there is little agreement on why certain cities experience crises while others do not. Two arguments are put forward: Cities suffer from: (1) structural problems like high immigration, congestion, etc.; and (2) non-structural political problems like the weakness of the mayor, union-power, etc. Starting from a common pool model of municipal goods we estimate demand equations for spending and debt with structural variables. The estimation is based on 900 US cities in 1985, 1991 and 1999. Structural factors predicted by the model explain most of the variation of spending and debt levels. Furthermore coefficients are stable over time. However, excessively high debt burdens as indicators of potential crisis and high spending levels are outliers and not explained by structural factors.

Suggested Citation

  • Guntram B Wolff, 2008. "Fiscal Crises in the US Cities: Structural and Non-Structural Causes," The IUP Journal of Public Finance, IUP Publications, vol. 0(1), pages 7-51, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:icf:icfjpf:v:06:y:2008:i:1:p:7-51
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