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The Flypaper Effect

  • Robert P. Inman
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    The flypaper effect results when a dollar of exogenous grants-in-aid leads to significantly greater public spending than an equivalent dollar of citizen income: Money sticks where it hits. Viewing governments as agents for a representative citizen voter, this empirical result is an anomaly. Four alternative explanations have been offered. First, it's a data problem; matching grants have been mis-classified as exogenous aid. Second, it's an econometric problem; exogenous aid is correlated with omitted variables leading to a downward bias in estimates of income's effects and an upward bias in estimates of aid's effects. Third, it's a specification problem: the representative citizen either fails to observe lump-sum aid, or sees aid but mis-perceives its impact as an average price effect, or finally, sees and understands aid's budgetary effects but allocates "public" and "private" monies through separate "mental accounts." The empirical evidence suggests none of these explanations is sufficient. A fourth explanation seems most promising: It's politics. Rather than an anomaly, the flypaper effect is best seen as an outcome of political institutions and the associated incentives of elected officials.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14579.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14579.

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    Date of creation: Dec 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14579
    Note: PE POL
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    1. Singhal, Monica, 2008. "Special interest groups and the allocation of public funds," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 548-564, April.
    2. Brian Knight, 2003. "Parochial Interests and the Centralized Provision of Local Public Goods: Evidence from Congressional Voting on Transportation Projects," NBER Working Papers 9748, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Helen F. Ladd, 1993. "State responses to the TRA86 revenue windfalls: A new test of the flypaper effect," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 82-103.
    4. Fisher, Ronald C., 1982. "Income and grant effects on local expenditure: The flypaper effect and other difficulties," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 324-345, November.
    5. Ritva Reinikka & Jakob Svensson, 2004. "Local Capture: Evidence From a Central Government Transfer Program in Uganda," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 678-704, May.
    6. Michael Baker & Abigail Payne, 1998. "An empirical study of matching grants: The "cap on CAP"," Working Papers msmart-98-03, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    7. Brian Knight, 2002. "Endogenous Federal Grants and Crowd-out of State Government Spending: Theory and Evidence from the Federal Highway Aid Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 71-92, March.
    8. Romer, Thomas & Rosenthal, Howard & Munley, Vincent G., 1992. "Economic incentives and political institutions: Spending and voting in school budget referenda," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 1-33, October.
    9. Megdal, Sharon Bernstein, 1987. "The Flypaper Effect Revisited: An Econometric Explanation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(2), pages 347-51, May.
    10. Hamilton, Bruce W., 1983. "The flypaper effect and other anomalies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 347-361, December.
    11. Wyckoff, Paul Gary, 1991. "The elusive flypaper effect," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 310-328, November.
    12. Reinikka, Ritva & Svensson, Jakob, 2004. "The power of information : evidence from a newspaper campaign to reduce capture," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3239, The World Bank.
    13. Hamilton, Jonathan H., 1986. "The flypaper effect and the deadweight loss from taxation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 148-155, March.
    14. Gordon, Nora, 2004. "Do federal grants boost school spending? Evidence from Title I," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1771-1792, August.
    15. Lankford, R. Hamilton, 1987. "A note on measuring flypaper effects," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 113-115, July.
    16. Turnbull, Geoffrey K., 1998. "The Overspending and Flypaper Effects of Fiscal Illusion: Theory and Empirical Evidence," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 1-26, July.
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