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Pork Barrel Cycles

  • Allan Drazen
  • Marcela Eslava

We present a model of political budget cycles in which incumbents influence voters by targeting government spending to specific groups of voters at the expense of other voters or other expenditures. Each voter faces a signal extraction problem: being targeted with expenditure before the election may reflect opportunistic manipulation, but may also reflect a sincere preference of the incumbent for the types of spending that voter prefers. We show the existence of a political equilibrium in which rational voters support an incumbent who targets them with spending before the election even though they know it may be electorally motivated. In equilibrium voters in the more "swing" regions are targeted at the expense of types of spending not favored by these voters. This will be true even if they know they live in swing regions. However, the responsiveness of these voters to electoral manipulation depends on whether they face some degree of uncertainty about the electoral importance of the group they are in. Use of targeted spending also implies voters can be influenced without election-year deficits, consistent with recent findings for established democracies.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12190.

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Date of creation: May 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12190
Note: EFG PE POL
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  1. Kneebone, R.D. & McKenzie, K.J., 1998. "Electoral and Partisan Cycles in Fiscal Policy: an Examination of Canadian Provinces," Papers 98-06, Calgary - Department of Economics.
  2. Dixit, Avinash K & Londregan, John, 1994. "The Determinants of Success of Special Interests in Redistributive Politics," CEPR Discussion Papers 1054, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Adi Brender & Allan Drazen, 2004. "Political Budget Cycles in New versus Established Democracies," NBER Working Papers 10539, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  5. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2005. "Party Discipline and Pork Barrel Politics," NBER Working Papers 11396, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Shi, Min & Svensson, Jakob, 2006. "Political budget cycles: Do they differ across countries and why?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1367-1389, September.
  18. Leonardo Martinez, 2008. "A theory of political cycles," Working Paper 05-04, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  19. Drazen, Allan & Eslava, Marcela, 2010. "Electoral manipulation via voter-friendly spending: Theory and evidence," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 39-52, May.
  20. Khemani, Stuti, 2004. "Political cycles in a developing economy: effect of elections in the Indian States," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 125-154, February.
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