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Merged Municipalities, Higher Debt: On Free-riding and the Common Pool Problem in Politics

  • Jordahl, Henrik


    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics)

  • Liang, Che-Yuan


    (Uppsala University)

We use the 1952 Swedish municipal amalgamation reform to study free-riding and the common pool problem in politics. We expect municipalities that were affected by the reform to increase their debt in anticipation of a merger, and this effect to be larger if they were merged with many other populous municipalities (i.e. facing a large common pool). We use ordinary least squares and matching on the complete cross section of rural municipalities for the period 1947-1951, fixed effects when exploiting the panel features, as well as a geographical instrumental variables strategy. We find an average treatment effect close to the amount that the average merged municipality increased its debt with during this period, which corresponds to 2.8 percent of average income or 63 percent of the average increase in income. However, we do not find larger increases in municipalities that were part of a larger common pool.

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Paper provided by Research Institute of Industrial Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number 679.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: 22 Nov 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Public Choice, 2010, pages 157-172.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0679
Contact details of provider: Postal: Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46 8 665 4500
Fax: +46 8 665 4599
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  1. Crain, W Mark, 1999. "Districts, Diversity, and Fiscal Biases: Evidence from the American States," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(2), pages 675-98, October.
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  5. Tyrefors Hinnerich, Björn, 2009. "Do merging local governments free ride on their counterparts when facing boundary reform?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(5-6), pages 721-728, June.
  6. Gilligan, Thomas W. & Matsusaka, John G., 2001. "Fiscal Policy, Legislature Size, and Political Parties: Evidence from State and Local Governments in the First Half of the 20th Century," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 1), pages 57-82, March.
  7. Bradbury, John Charles & Stephenson, E Frank, 2003. " Local Government Structure and Public Expenditures," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 115(1-2), pages 185-98, April.
  8. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Gilligan, Thomas W & Matsusaka, John G, 1995. "Deviations from Constituent Interests: The Role of Legislative Structure and Political Parties in the States," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(3), pages 383-401, July.
  10. 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 19 Sep 2006.
  11. 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.
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