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What’s the Difference Between a Donkey and an Elephant? Using Panel Data from US States to Estimate the Impact of Partisanship on Policy Settings and Economic Outcomes

  • Andrew Leigh

Using panel data from US states, I measure the impact of partisanship on a wide range of different policy settings and economic outcomes. Across 32 measures, there are surprisingly few differences in policy settings, social outcomes and economic outcomes under Democrats and Republicans. In terms of policies, Democratic Governors tend to prefer slightly higher minimum wages and more redistributive taxes. Under Republican Governors, incarceration rates are higher, while welfare caseloads are higher under Democratic Governors. In terms of social and economic outcomes, Democratic Governors tend to preside over higher median post-tax income, lower post-tax inequality, and lower unemployment rates. However, for 25 of the 32 dependent variables, gubernatorial partisanship does not have a statistically significant impact on policy outcomes and social welfare. I find no evidence of gubernatorial partisan differences in welfare generosity, the number of government employees or their salaries, state revenue, incarceration rates, execution rates, pre-tax incomes and inequality, crime rates, suicide rates, and test scores. These results are robust to the use of regression discontinuity estimation, to take account of the possibility of reverse causality. Overall, it seems that Governors behave in a fairly non-ideological manner.

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File URL: http://cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/cepr/DP504.pdf
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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 504.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:504
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Web page: http://rse.anu.edu.au/cepr.php
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  1. Roemer, John E., 1998. "Why the poor do not expropriate the rich: an old argument in new garb," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 399-424, December.
  2. Andrew Leigh, 2005. "Can Redistributive State Taxes Reduce Inequality?," CEPR Discussion Papers 490, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  3. Wu, Ximing & Perloff, Jeffrey M. & Golan, Amos, 2002. "Effects of government policies on income distribution and welfare," CUDARE Working Paper Series 950, University of California at Berkeley, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Policy.
  4. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
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