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Budget Processes: Theory and Experimental Evidence


  • Karl-Martin Ehrhart
  • Roy Gardner
  • Jürgen von Hagen
  • Claudia Keser


This paper studies budget processes, both theoretically and experimentally. We give a sufficient condition for top-down and bottom-up budget processes to have the same voting equilibrium. Furthermore, at a voting equilibrium, it is not always true, as often presumed, that a top-down budget process leads to a smaller overall budget than does a bottom-up budget process. To test the implications for budget processes of voting equilibrium theory, we conduct a series of 128 voting experiments using subjects in a behavior laboratory. The experimental evidence from these experiments is well organized by voting equilibrium theory, both at the aggregate level and at the individual subject level. In particular, subjects display considerable evidence of rationality in their proposals and votes. More complete information and fewer spending categories lead to greater predictive success of voting equilibrium theory, and reduce the time needed to reach a budget decision. Ce texte étudie des processus de construction budgétaire, tant d'un point de vue théorique que d'un point de vue de leur application expérimentale. Nous spécifions une condition suffisante afin que l'équilibre électoral soit le même pour les processus de construction budgétaire qu'ils soient de type top-down (par le haut) ou de type bottom-up (par le bas). D'autre part, et bien que cela soit souvent supposé, il n'est pas toujours vrai qu'à l'équilibre électoral un processus de construction budgétaire top-down conduise à un plus faible budget global que ne le ferait un processus budgétaire de type bottom-up. Pour tester les conséquences de la théorie de l'équilibre électoral sur les processus de construction budgétaire, une série de 128 expériences a été conduite en laboratoire. Les résultats de ces expériences sont largement conformes à la théorie de l'équilibre électoral, aussi bien au niveau des donnés agrégés qu'au niveau des résultats individuels. Plus particulièrement, l'étude des résultats révèle que les joueurs font preuve d'une véritable rationalité de décision tant pour formuler leur proposition que pour établir leur stratégie de vote. Enfin, une information plus complète et moins de catégories de dépenses conduisent à un plus grand succès de prévision de la théorie de l'équilibre électoral et réduisent le temps nécessaire pour atteindre une ratification budgétaire.

Suggested Citation

  • Karl-Martin Ehrhart & Roy Gardner & Jürgen von Hagen & Claudia Keser, 1999. "Budget Processes: Theory and Experimental Evidence," CIRANO Working Papers 99s-33, CIRANO.
  • Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:99s-33

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Claudia Keser & Roy Gardner, 1999. "Strategic behavior of experienced subjects in a common pool resource game," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 28(2), pages 241-252.
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    3. Alberto F. Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1999. "Budget Deficits and Budget Institutions," NBER Chapters,in: Fiscal Institutions and Fiscal Performance, pages 13-36 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Mark Hallerberg & Jürgen von Hagen, 1999. "Electoral Institutions, Cabinet Negotiations, and Budget Deficits in the European Union," NBER Chapters,in: Fiscal Institutions and Fiscal Performance, pages 209-232 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Grigorescu, Adriana & Balalia, Alina Elena, 2009. "The involvement of the European Union in funding the member states during the economic crisis period," MPRA Paper 25130, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Gebhard Kirchgassner, 2002. "The effects of fiscal institutions on public finance: a survey of the empirical evidence," Chapters,in: Political Economy and Public Finance, chapter 9 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Feige, Christian & Ehrhart, Karl-Martin & Krämer, Jan, 2014. "Voting on contributions to a threshold public goods game: An experimental investigation," Working Paper Series in Economics 60, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Department of Economics and Business Engineering.
    4. Thomas Demuynck, 2015. "Statistical inference for measures of predictive success," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 79(4), pages 689-699, December.
    5. Itay Ringel & Asher Tishler, 2011. "The Government Budget Allocation Process and National Security: An Application to the Israeli–Syrian Arms Race," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Conflict, chapter 6 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    6. Dietrichson, Jens & Ellegård, Lina Maria, 2011. "Institutions promoting budgetary discipline: evidence from Swedish municipalities," Working Papers 2011:8, Lund University, Department of Economics, revised 05 Aug 2014.
    7. Dharmapala, Dhammika, 2006. "The Congressional budget process, aggregate spending, and statutory budget rules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 119-141, January.
    8. Wehner, Joachim, 2006. "Legislative institutions and fiscal policy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 25509, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Sutter, Matthias, 2003. "The Political Economy of Fiscal Policy: An Experimental Study on the Strategic Use of Deficits," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 116(3-4), pages 313-332, September.
    10. Jens Dietrichson & Lina Ellegård, 2015. "Institutions improving fiscal performance: evidence from Swedish municipalities," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 22(5), pages 861-886, October.

    More about this item


    Budget processes; voting equilibrium; experimental economics; Processus de construction budgétaire; équilibre électoral; économie expérimentale;

    JEL classification:

    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • H61 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Budget; Budget Systems

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