IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/5002.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Impact of Federal Spending on House Election Outcomes

Author

Listed:
  • Steven D. Levitt
  • James M. Snyder, Jr.

Abstract

While it is widely believed by academics, politicians, and the popular press that incumbent congressmen are rewarded by the electorate for bringing federal dollars to their district, the empirical evidence supporting that claim is extremely weak. One explanation for the failure to uncover the expected relationship between federal spending and election outcomes is that incumbents who expect to have difficulty being reelected are likely to exert greater effort in obtaining federal outlays. Since it is generally impossible to adequately measure this effort, the estimated impact of spending is biased downward due to an omitted variable bias. We address this estimation problem using instrumental variables. For each House district, we use spending outside the district but inside the state containing the district, as an instrument for spending in the district. Federal spending is affected by a large number of actors (e.g. governors, senators, mayors, and other House members in the state delegation), leading to positive correlations in federal spending across the House districts within states. However, federal spending outside of a district is unlikely to be strongly correlated with the strength of that district's electoral challenge. Thus, spending in other districts is a plausible instrument. In contrast to previous studies, we find strong evidence that non-transfer federal spending benefits congressional incumbents: an additional $100 per capita in such spending is worth as much as two percent of the popular vote. Additional transfer spending, on the other hand, does not appear to have any electoral effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven D. Levitt & James M. Snyder, Jr., 1995. "The Impact of Federal Spending on House Election Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 5002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5002 Note: PE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w5002.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kenneth Shepsle & Barry Weingast, 1981. "Structure-induced equilibrium and legislative choice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 503-519, January.
    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:83:y:1989:i:02:p:373-398_08 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. David M. Cutler & Jonathan Gruber, 1996. "Does Public Insurance Crowd out Private Insurance?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 391-430.
    4. Rosenthal, Howard & Alesina, Alberto, 1989. "Partisan Cycles in Congressional Elections and the Macroeconomy," Scholarly Articles 4553031, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    5. Alberto Alesina & Howard Rosenthal, 1988. "Partisan Cycles in Congressional Elections and the Macroeconomy," NBER Working Papers 2706, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. repec:cup:apsrev:v:77:y:1983:i:02:p:407-419_24 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Inman, Robert P & Fitts, Michael A, 1990. "Political Institutions and Fiscal Policy: Evidence from the U.S. Historical Record," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(0), pages 79-132.
    8. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5002. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.