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Financing Local Development: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Municipalities in Brazil, 1980-1991


  • Stephan Litschig


This paper uses a regression discontinuity design to estimate the impact of additional unrestricted grant financing on local public spending, public service provision, schooling, literacy, and income at the community (município) level in Brazil. Additional transfers increased local public spending per capita by about 20% with no evidence of crowding out own revenue or other revenue sources. The additional local spending increased schooling per capita by about 7% and literacy rates by about 4 percentage points. The implied marginal cost of schooling- accounting for corruption and other leakages- amounts to about US$ 126, which turns out to be similar to the average cost of schooling in Brazil in the early 1980s. In line with the effect on human capital, the poverty rate was reduced by about 4 percentage points, while income per capita gains were positive but not statistically significant. Results also suggest that additional public spending had stronger effects on schooling and literacy in less developed parts of Brazil, while poverty reduction was evenly spread across the country.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephan Litschig, 2011. "Financing Local Development: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Municipalities in Brazil, 1980-1991," Working Papers 510, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:510

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chin, Aimee, 2005. "Can redistributing teachers across schools raise educational attainment? Evidence from Operation Blackboard in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(2), pages 384-405, December.
    2. Oriana Bandiera & Andrea Prat & Tommaso Valletti, 2009. "Active and Passive Waste in Government Spending: Evidence from a Policy Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1278-1308, September.
    3. Fernanda Brollo & Tommaso Nannicini & Roberto Perotti & Guido Tabellini, 2013. "The Political Resource Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(5), pages 1759-1796, August.
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    5. Francesco Caselli & Guy Michaels, 2013. "Do Oil Windfalls Improve Living Standards? Evidence from Brazil," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 208-238, January.
    6. David S. Lee & Thomas Lemieux, 2010. "Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 281-355, June.
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    8. Birdsall, Nancy, 1985. "Public inputs and child schooling in Brazil," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 67-86.
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    Cited by:

    1. Thushyanthan Baskaran & Lars P. Feld & Sarah Necker, 2017. "Depressing dependence? Transfers and economic growth in the German states, 1975–2005," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 51(12), pages 1815-1825, December.
    2. Heléne Lundqvist, 2015. "Granting public or private consumption? Effects of grants on local public spending and income taxes," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 22(1), pages 41-72, February.
    3. Loayza, Norman & Mier y Teran, Alfredo & Rigolini, Jamele, 2013. "Poverty, Inequality, and the Local Natural Resource Curse," IZA Discussion Papers 7226, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item


    Intergovernmental grants; decentralization; Economic development;

    JEL classification:

    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • H40 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - General
    • H72 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Budget and Expenditures
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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