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The Effect of Patronage Politics on City Government in American Cities, 1900-1910

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  • Rebecca Menes

Abstract

In this paper I explore the effect of patronage or machine' politics on government performance in American cities during the Progressive era. I use game theoretic models and an empirical analysis of spending and public goods provision during the first decade of the twentieth century in a cross section of American cities with and without governments dominated by political machines. The ability to buy votes relaxes the electoral constraints on the government. Taxes, budgets, municipal wages, and (unobserved) corruption are all predicted to rise under a patronage based regime. But in a city, patronage politics does not relax the incentives to provide public goods. A politician who buys his way into office will still be motivated to provide optimal levels of government goods and services because he can capture the resulting locational rents in higher taxes and graft. Empirically, city governments dominated by political machines paid city government employees more and had larger budgets but provided high levels of public goods.

Suggested Citation

  • Rebecca Menes, 1999. "The Effect of Patronage Politics on City Government in American Cities, 1900-1910," NBER Working Papers 6975, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6975 Note: DAE PE
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    1. Martin C. McGuire & Mancur Olson Jr., 1996. "The Economics of Autocracy and Majority Rule: The Invisible Hand and the Use of Force," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(1), pages 72-96, March.
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    4. Rauch, James E, 1995. "Bureaucracy, Infrastructure, and Economic Growth: Evidence from U.S. Cities during the Progressive Era," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 968-979, September.
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    8. Paolo Mauro, 1995. "Corruption and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 681-712.
    9. Joseph D. Reid, Jr. & Michael M. Kurth, 1992. "The Rise and Fall of Urban Political Patronage Machines," NBER Chapters,in: Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel, pages 427-445 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Shertzer, Allison, 2016. "Immigrant group size and political mobilization: Evidence from European migration to the United States," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 1-12.
    2. Rebecca Menes, 2006. "Limiting the Reach of the Grabbing Hand. Graft and Growth in American Cities, 1880 to 1930," NBER Chapters,in: Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's Economic History, pages 63-94 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N41 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • R53 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - Public Facility Location Analysis; Public Investment and Capital Stock

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