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Local public goods in a democracy: Theory and evidence from rural India

  • Santanu Gupta
  • Raghbendra Jha


This paper examines allocation of local public goods over jurisdictions (villages) with individuals with identical tastes and different incomes, in a model with democratic institutions and majority rule. The median voter (in income) in each jurisdiction determines the probability of re-election for the incumbent government. The jurisdiction with the median of these median voters is most favoured. With identical median voters in jurisdictions, and with re-election requiring less than 50mandate, jurisdictions with higher income inequality get favoured. Results from a survey data (from NCAER) on infrastructure provision in 1669 Indian villages confirm this hypothesis. Ethnic fragmentation does not affect public good provision but political fragmentation does. Finally, villages with the median population are the most favoured for public goods allocation. Sparsely populated and too densely populated villages are relatively neglected.

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Paper provided by The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 2006-07.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pas:papers:2006-07
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  1. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1997. "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 85-114, February.
  2. Branko Milanovic, 2003. "The median voter hypothesis, income inequality and income," HEW 0305001, EconWPA.
  3. Alesina, Alberto & Baqir, Reza & Easterly, William, 1999. "Public goods and ethnic divisions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2108, The World Bank.
  4. Dixit, Avinash K & Londregan, John, 1994. "The Determinants of Success of Special Interests in Redistributive Politics," CEPR Discussion Papers 1054, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Seabright, Paul, 1996. "Accountability and decentralisation in government: An incomplete contracts model," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 61-89, January.
  6. Dasgupta, Indraneel & Kanbur, Ravi, 2001. "Class, Community, Inequality," Working Papers 127671, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
  7. Santanu Gupta, 2001. "Political Accountability and Fiscal Federalism," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 263-280, May.
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