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The Political Economy of Transportation Investment

Listed author(s):
  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Giacomo A.M. Ponzetto

Will politics lead to over-building or under-building of transportation projects? In this paper, we develop a model of infrastructure policy in which politicians overdo things that have hidden costs and underperform tasks whose costs voters readily perceive. Consequently, national funding of transportation leads to overspending, since voters more readily perceive the upside of new projects than the future taxes that will be paid for distant highways. Yet when local voters are well-informed, the highly salient nuisances of local construction, including land taking and noise, lead to under-building. This framework explains the decline of urban mega-projects in the US (Altshuler and Luberoff 2003) as the result of increasingly educated and organized urban voters. Our framework also predicts more per capita transportation spending in low-density and less educated areas, which seems to be empirically correct.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23686.

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Date of creation: Aug 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23686
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  1. Brueckner, Jan K. & Selod, Harris, 2006. "The political economy of urban transport-system choice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 983-1005, August.
  2. Edward L. Glaeser & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2005. "Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1283-1330.
  3. Glaeser, Edward L. & Ponzetto, Giacomo A.M., 2014. "Shrouded costs of government: The political economy of state and local public pensions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 89-105.
  4. Assar Lindbeck & Jörgen Weibull, 1987. "Balanced-budget redistribution as the outcome of political competition," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 52(3), pages 273-297, January.
  5. Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto, 2008. "Heterogeneous information and trade policy," Economics Working Papers 1296, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Dec 2011.
  6. repec:dgr:kubcen:2012033 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Glaeser, Edward L. & Ward, Bryce A., 2009. "The causes and consequences of land use regulation: Evidence from Greater Boston," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 265-278, May.
  8. Federico Boffa & Amedeo Piolatto & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto, 2011. "Political centralization and government accountability," Economics Working Papers 1335, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jul 2015.
  9. De Borger, Bruno & Proost, Stef, 2012. "A political economy model of road pricing," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 79-92.
  10. Gilles Duranton & Matthew A. Turner, 2011. "The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2616-2652, October.
  11. Martina Björkman & Jakob Svensson, 2009. "Power to the People: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment on Community-Based Monitoring in Uganda," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 735-769.
  12. Bruno Borger & Stef Proost, 2016. "The political economy of pricing and capacity decisions for congestible local public goods in a federal state," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 23(5), pages 934-959, October.
  13. Alessandro Gavazza & Alessandro Lizzeri, 2009. "Transparency and Economic Policy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(3), pages 1023-1048.
  14. De Borger, Bruno & Proost, Stef, 2016. "Can we leave road pricing to the regions? -The role of institutional constraints," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 208-222.
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  16. Alan S. Gerber & Dean Karlan & Daniel Bergan, 2009. "Does the Media Matter? A Field Experiment Measuring the Effect of Newspapers on Voting Behavior and Political Opinions," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 35-52, April.
  17. Brian Knight, 2005. "Estimating the Value of Proposal Power," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1639-1652, December.
  18. Jan K. Brueckner, 2015. "Decentralized Road Investment and Pricing in a Congested, Multi-Jurisdictional City: Efficiency With Spillovers," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 68(3S), pages 839-854, September.
  19. Federico Boffa & Amedeo Piolatto & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto, 2016. "Political Centralization and Government Accountability," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(1), pages 381-422.
  20. Yun-chien Chang, 2010. "An Empirical Study of Compensation Paid in Eminent Domain Settlements: New York City, 1990-2002," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(1), pages 201-244, 01.
  21. Joseph Gyourko & Albert Saiz & Anita Summers, 2008. "A New Measure of the Local Regulatory Environment for Housing Markets: The Wharton Residential Land Use Regulatory Index," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 45(3), pages 693-729, March.
  22. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2003. "Centralized versus decentralized provision of local public goods: a political economy approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2611-2637, December.
  23. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972.
  24. Munch, Patricia, 1976. "An Economic Analysis of Eminent Domain," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(3), pages 473-497, June.
  25. 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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