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Democracy to the road: the political economy of potholes

  • Albert Saiz

Are dictatorships more prone to build and maintain roads? This paper identifies a puzzling fact: countries that are more democratic tend to have roads in worse conditions than less democratic countries. Using lagged values of a democracy index to instrument for democracy in 1980 yields higher estimates of the magnitude of the association between democracy and bad roads. Instruments based on climate, population, and education yield similar results. The evidence points to a negative causal relationship from democracy to road quality. The author also finds that changes to a more democratic government are associated with slower growth of the road network. The author advances four non-mutually exclusive hypotheses that can explain the results and find support for one of them: dictatorships prefer a better highway network ready for external and internal military intervention.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in its series Working Papers with number 02-17.

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Date of creation: 2002
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedpwp:02-17
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  1. Gwilliam, Ken & Shalizi, Zmarak, 1999. "Road Funds, User Charges and Taxes," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 14(2), pages 159-85, August.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 1990. "A Positive Theory of Fiscal Deficits and Government Debt," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(3), pages 403-414.
  3. Dani Rodrik, 1999. "Democracies Pay Higher Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 707-738.
  4. Alesina, Alberto & Perotti, Roberto, 1996. "Income distribution, political instability, and investment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 1203-1228, June.
  5. Barro, Robert J, 1996. "Democracy and Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 1-27, March.
  6. Randolph, Susan & Bogetic, Zeljko & Hefley, Dennis, 1996. "Determinants of public expenditure on infrastructure : transportation and communication," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1661, The World Bank.
  7. Perotti, Roberto & Alesina, Alberto, 1996. "Income Distribution, Political Instability, and Investment," Scholarly Articles 4553018, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Dani Rodrik, 2000. "Institutions for High-Quality Growth: What They are and How to Acquire Them," NBER Working Papers 7540, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Alberto Alesina, 1987. "A Positive Theory of Fiscal Deficits and Government Debt in a Democracy," UCLA Economics Working Papers 435, UCLA Department of Economics.
  10. Alesina, Alberto & Özler, Sule & Roubini, Nouriel & Swagel, Phillip, 1996. "Political Instability and Economic Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 189-211, June.
  11. Robert J. Barro, 1989. "Economic Growth in a Cross Section of Countries," NBER Working Papers 3120, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Robert J. Barro, 1999. "Determinants of Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S158-S183, December.
  13. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 600-621, June.
  14. Tavares, Jose & Wacziarg, Romain, 2001. "How democracy affects growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(8), pages 1341-1378, August.
  15. Rivera-Batiz, Francisco L, 2002. "Democracy, Governance, and Economic Growth: Theory and Evidence," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(2), pages 225-47, June.
  16. Roubini, Nouriel & Swagel, Phillip & Ozler, Sule & Alesina, Alberto, 1996. "Political Instability and Economic Growth," Scholarly Articles 4553024, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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