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A Model of the Political Economy of the United States

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  • Alberto Alesina
  • John Londregan
  • Howard Rosenthal

Abstract

We develop and test a model of joint determination of the rate of economic growth and the results of presidential and Congressional elections in the United States. In our model, economic agents and voters have rational expectations. Economic policy varies as a function of control of the White House and the two-party shares in Congress. Politics affects growth through unanticipated policy shifts following the outcome of presidential elections. The economy influences elections as voters use past realizations of growth to make rational inferences about the "competency" level of the incumbent administration. Elections are also influenced by voters using their midterm Congressional votes to moderate the policies of the incumbent administration. The theoretical model is used to generate a recursive system of equations in which the dependent variables are the growth rate and the vote shares in presidential and Congressional elections. The theory implies several restrictions on the equations. Tests of the restrictions generally support the model; however, the results support the traditional view of naive retrospective voting as well as the "rational" retrospective voting posited in the model.

Suggested Citation

  • Alberto Alesina & John Londregan & Howard Rosenthal, 1991. "A Model of the Political Economy of the United States," NBER Working Papers 3611, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3611
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    1. Alesina, Alberto & Sachs, Jeffrey, 1988. "Political Parties and the Business Cycle in the United States, 1948-1984," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 20(1), pages 63-82, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Blomberg, S. Brock & Hess, Gregory D., 2003. "Is the political business cycle for real?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 1091-1121, May.
    2. Berlemann, Michael & Markwardt, Gunther, 2003. "Partisan cycles and pre-electoral uncertainty," Dresden Discussion Paper Series in Economics 01/03, Technische Universität Dresden, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Economics.
    3. Cohen, Gerald & Alesina, Alberto & Roubini, Nouriel, 1992. "Macroeconomic Policy and Elections in OECD Democracies," Scholarly Articles 4553023, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    4. Ali T. Akarca & Aysit Tansel, 2003. "Economic Performance and Political Outcomes: An Analysis of The 1995 Turkish Parliamentary Election Results," Working Papers 0321, Economic Research Forum, revised 07 2003.
    5. Hibbs Jr., Douglas A., 2004. "Voting and the Macroeconomy," Working Papers in Economics 144, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 08 Apr 2006.
    6. Alesina, Alberto & Özler, Sule & Roubini, Nouriel & Swagel, Phillip, 1996. "Political Instability and Economic Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 189-211, June.
    7. Persson, T., 1992. "Politics and Economic Policy," Papers 518, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
    8. Luisa Lambertini, 2003. "Are Budget Deficits Used Strategically?," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 578, Boston College Department of Economics.

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