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Do Politicians Free-ride? - an empirical test of the common pool model


  • Tyrefors, Björn

    () (Dept. of Economic Statistics, Stockholm School of Economics)


In the twentieth century there was a significant trend towards larger local governments through amalgamations in the western world. Amalgamations provide potential economic benefits but might also give rise to costs driven by opportunistic political behavior. This study uses a compulsory amalgamation reform of municipalities in Sweden to test for such behavior. The reform gives a local government incentives to accumulate debt before the amalgamation takes place, since the cost will be shared by all tax payers in the new municipality. The strength of this incentive to free ride will be determined by the locality's population size, relative to the future size of the new locality. We find an economically large and statistically significant free riding effect and the result is robust.

Suggested Citation

  • Tyrefors, Björn, 2006. "Do Politicians Free-ride? - an empirical test of the common pool model," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 626, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 28 Feb 2007.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:hastef:0626

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Angrist, Joshua D. & Krueger, Alan B., 1999. "Empirical strategies in labor economics," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 23, pages 1277-1366 Elsevier.
    2. Reza Baqir, 2002. "Districting and Government Overspending," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1318-1354, December.
    3. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1999. "Political economics and macroeconomic policy," Handbook of Macroeconomics,in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 22, pages 1397-1482 Elsevier.
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    5. Tabellini, Guido & Alesina, Alberto, 1990. "Voting on the Budget Deficit," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 37-49, March.
    6. Pettersson-Lidbom, Per & Dahlberg, Matz, 2003. "An Empirical Approach for Evaluating Soft Budget Constraints," Working Paper Series 2003:28, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    7. Bradbury, John Charles & Crain, W. Mark, 2001. "Legislative organization and government spending: cross-country evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 309-325, December.
    8. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Henrik Jordahl & Che-Yuan Liang, 2010. "Merged municipalities, higher debt: on free-riding and the common pool problem in politics," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 143(1), pages 157-172, April.

    More about this item


    common pool; amalgamations; free riding; local government; difference-in-difference;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General

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