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Are rules-based government programs shielded from special-interest politics? Evidence from revenue-sharing transfers in Brazil

  • Stephan Litschig

Manipulation of government finances for the benefit of narrowly defined groups is usually thought to be limited to the part of the budget over which politicians exercise discretion in the short run, such as earmarks. Analyzing a revenue-sharing program between the central and local governments in Brazil that uses an allocation formula based on local population estimates, I document two main results: first, that the population estimates entering the formula were manipulated and second, that this manipulation was political in nature. Consistent with swing-voter targeting by the right-wing central government, I find that municipalities with roughly equal right-wing and non-right-wing vote shares benefited relative to opposition or conservative core support municipalities. These findings suggest that the exclusive focus on discretionary transfers in the extant empirical literature on special-interest politics may understate the true scope of tactical redistribution that is going on under programmatic disguise.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1144.

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Date of creation: Aug 2008
Date of revision: May 2012
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1144
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  1. Case, Anne, 2001. "Election goals and income redistribution: Recent evidence from Albania," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 405-423, March.
  2. Stephen Ansolabehere & James M. Snyder, 2006. "Party Control of State Government and the Distribution of Public Expenditures," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 108(4), pages 547-569, December.
  3. Assar Lindbeck & Jörgen Weibull, 1987. "Balanced-budget redistribution as the outcome of political competition," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 52(3), pages 273-297, January.
  4. Khemani, Stuti, 2007. "Does delegation of fiscal policy to an independent agency make a difference? Evidence from intergovernmental transfers in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 464-484, March.
  5. Arulampalam, Wiji & Dasgupta, Sugato & Dhillon, Amrita & Dutta, Bhaskar, 2009. "Electoral goals and center-state transfers: A theoretical model and empirical evidence from India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 103-119, January.
  6. Wright, Gavin, 1974. "The Political Economy of New Deal Spending: An Econometric Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 56(1), pages 30-38, February.
  7. Solé-Ollé, Albert & Sorribas-Navarro, Pilar, 2008. "The effects of partisan alignment on the allocation of intergovernmental transfers. Differences-in-differences estimates for Spain," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(12), pages 2302-2319, December.
  8. Robin Boadway & Anwar Shah, 2007. "Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfers : Principles and Practice," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7171.
  9. Dahlberg, M. & Johansson, E., 1999. "On the Vote Purchasing Behavior of Incumbent Governments," Papers 1999:24, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  10. Adriana Camacho & Emily Conover, 2009. "Manipulation of Social Program Eligibility: Detection, Explanations and Consequences for Empirical Research," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 006211, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
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