IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/ucp/jlawec/v52y2009i3p469-495.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Fiscal Consequences of Electoral Institutions

Author

Listed:
  • Christopher R. Berry
  • Jacob E. Gersen

Abstract

There are more than 500,000 elected local government officials in the United States. The most electorally dense county has more than 20 times the average number of elected officials per capita. This paper offers the first systematic investigation of the link between electoral density and fiscal outcomes. 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. We predict diminishing returns to electoral density and a -shaped relationship between the number of elected local officials and government fidelity to citizen preferences. We find that public sector size decreases with electoral density up to a point, beyond which budgets grow as more officials are added. (c) 2009 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher R. Berry & Jacob E. Gersen, 2009. "Fiscal Consequences of Electoral Institutions," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(3), pages 469-495, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:52:y:2009:i:3:p:469-495
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/595764
    File Function: link to full text
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Rauscher, Michael, 1998. "Leviathan and Competition among Jurisdictions: The Case of Benefit Taxation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 59-67, July.
    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. Terry M. Moe, 2006. "Political Control and the Power of the Agent," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 1-29, April.
    5. Dalenberg, Douglas R & Duffy-Deno, Kevin T, 1991. "At-Large versus Ward Elections: Implications for Public Infrastructure," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 70(3), pages 335-342, June.
    6. Carlo Perroni & Kimberley A. Scharf, 2001. "Tiebout with Politics: Capital Tax Competition and Constitutional Choices," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 133-154.
    7. Reza Baqir, 2002. "Districting and Government Overspending," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1318-1354, December.
    8. Epple, Dennis & Zelenitz, Allan, 1981. "The Implications of Competition among Jurisdictions: Does Tiebout Need Politics?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1197-1217, December.
    9. Vigdor, Jacob L., 2002. "Interpreting ethnic fragmentation effects," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 271-276, April.
    10. Sprunger, Philip & Wilson, John Douglas, 1998. "Imperfectly Mobile Households and Durable Local Public Goods: Does the Capitalization Mechanism Work?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 468-492, November.
    11. repec:cup:apsrev:v:61:y:1967:i:03:p:701-716_20 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Gilligan, Thomas W & Matsusaka, John G, 1995. "Deviations from Constituent Interests: The Role of Legislative Structure and Political Parties in the States," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(3), pages 383-401, July.
    13. James M. Poterba, 1997. "Demographic structure and the political economy of public education," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(1), pages 48-66.
    14. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-927, October.
    15. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284.
    16. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    17. repec:cup:apsrev:v:101:y:2007:i:02:p:303-320_07 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Wilson, John Douglas, 1999. "Theories of Tax Competition," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 52(2), pages 269-304, June.
    19. Sonstelie, Jon C. & Portney, Paul R., 1978. "Profit maximizing communities and the theory of local public expenditure," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 263-277, April.
    20. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
    21. Matsusaka, John G, 1995. "Fiscal Effects of the Voter Initiative: Evidence from the Last 30 Years," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 587-623, June.
    22. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2008. "Issue Unbundling via Citizens' Initiatives," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 3(4), pages 379-397, December.
    23. Cutler, David M & Elmendorf, Douglas W & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1993. "Demographic Characteristics and the Public Bundle," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 48(Supplemen), pages 178-198.
    24. Dunne, Stephanie & Reed, W Robert & Wilbanks, James, 1997. "Endogenizing the Median Voter: Public Choice Goes to School," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 93(1-2), pages 99-118, October.
    25. Weingast, Barry R & Shepsle, Kenneth A & Johnsen, Christopher, 1981. "The Political Economy of Benefits and Costs: A Neoclassical Approach to Distributive Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 642-664, August.
    26. Wilson, John Douglas, 1999. "Theories of Tax Competition," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(n. 2), pages 269-304, June.
    27. James R. Hines & Richard H. Thaler, 1995. "The Flypaper Effect," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 217-226, Fall.
    28. Robert Barro, 1973. "The control of politicians: An economic model," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 19-42, March.
    29. Scott Ashworth, 2005. "Reputational Dynamics and Political Careers," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(2), pages 441-466, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Baber, William R. & Gore, Angela K. & Rich, Kevin T. & Zhang, Jean X., 2013. "Accounting restatements, governance and municipal debt financing," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 212-227.
    2. Alexander Whalley, 2013. "Elected versus Appointed Policy Makers: Evidence from City Treasurers," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(1), pages 39-81.
    3. William Doerner & Keith Ihlanfeldt, 2011. "City government structure: are some institutions undersupplied?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 149(1), pages 109-132, October.

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:52:y:2009:i:3:p:469-495. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Journals Division). General contact details of provider: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/ .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.