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The Control of Politicians in Normal Times and Times of Crisis: Wealth Accumulation by U.S. Congressmen, 1850–1880

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  • Querubin, Pablo
  • Snyder, James M.

Abstract

We employ a regression discontinuity design (RDD) based on close elections to estimate the rents from a seat in the U.S. Congress between 1850 and 1880. Using census data, we compare wealth accumulation among those who won or lost their first race by a small margin. We find evidence of significant returns for the first half of the 1860s, during the Civil War, but not for other periods. Those who won their first election by a narrow margin and served during the period 1861–1866 accumulated, on average, almost 40% more wealth between 1860 and 1870 (roughly $800,000 in present-day values) relative to those who ran but did not serve. We also find that wealth accumulation was particularly large for congressmen who represented states most involved in military contracting and those who served during the Civil War in committees that were responsible for most military appropriations. We hypothesize that increased opportunities from the sudden spike in government spending during the war and the decrease in control by the media might have made it easier for incumbent congressmen to collect rents.

Suggested Citation

  • Querubin, Pablo & Snyder, James M., 2013. "The Control of Politicians in Normal Times and Times of Crisis: Wealth Accumulation by U.S. Congressmen, 1850–1880," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 8(4), pages 409-450, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:now:jlqjps:100.00012104
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00012104
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    Cited by:

    1. Stefano DellaVigna & Ruben Durante & Brian Knight & Eliana La Ferrara, 2016. "Market-Based Lobbying: Evidence from Advertising Spending in Italy," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 224-256, January.
    2. Acemoglu, Daron & Johnson, Simon & Kermani, Amir & Kwak, James & Mitton, Todd, 2016. "The value of connections in turbulent times: Evidence from the United States," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(2), pages 368-391.
    3. Kaisa Kotakorpi & Panu Poutvaara & Marko Tervio, 2013. "Returns to office in national and local politics," Discussion Papers 86, Aboa Centre for Economics.
    4. Martín Rossi, 2016. "Self-Perpetuation of Political Power: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Argentina," Working Papers 127, Universidad de San Andres, Departamento de Economia, revised Aug 2016.
    5. repec:eee:exehis:v:68:y:2018:i:c:p:119-131 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Björn Kauder & Manuela Krause & Niklas Potrafke, 2016. "Electoral Cycles in MPs' Salaries: Evidence from the German States," CESifo Working Paper Series 6028, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Brandon Dupont & Joshua Rosenbloom, 2016. "The Impact of the Civil War on Southern Wealth Holders," NBER Working Papers 22184, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Ilona Babenko & Viktar Fedaseyeu & Song Zhang, 2017. "Executives In Politics," BAFFI CAREFIN Working Papers 1762, BAFFI CAREFIN, Centre for Applied Research on International Markets Banking Finance and Regulation, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Corruption; accountability; Congress; elections; political institutions;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation

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