IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The constrained politics of local public investments under cooperative federalism


  • Bremer, Björn
  • Di Carlo, Donato
  • Wansleben, Leon


Public investment spending declined steadily in advanced economies during the last three decades. Germany is a case in point where the aggregate decline coincided with growing inequality in investments across districts. What explains variation in local investment spending? We assembled a novel dataset to investigate the effects of structural constraints and partisanship on German districts' investment spending from 1995 to 2018. We find that the lack of fiscal and administrative capacity significantly influences local investment patterns. Yet, within these constraints, partisanship matters. Conservative politicians tend to prioritize public investment more than the left. This is especially the case when revenues from local taxes are low. As the fiscal conditions improve, left-wing politicians increase investment more strongly and hence the difference between the left and the right disappears. Our findings are indicative of how regional economic divergence can emerge even within cooperative federalist systems and show that, despite rigid fiscal rules, partisanship matters when parties face trade-offs over discretionary spending.

Suggested Citation

  • Bremer, Björn & Di Carlo, Donato & Wansleben, Leon, 2021. "The constrained politics of local public investments under cooperative federalism," MPIfG Discussion Paper 21/4, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:mpifgd:214

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fernando Ferreira & Joseph Gyourko, 2009. "Do Political Parties Matter? Evidence from U.S. Cities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 399-422.
    2. Ralf Hepp & Jürgen von Hagen, 2012. "Fiscal Federalism in Germany: Stabilization and Redistribution Before and After Unification," PPublius: The Journal of Federalism, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 234-259, April.
    3. Hubertus Bardt & Sebastian Dullien & Michael Hüther & Katja Rietzler, 2019. "Für eine solide Finanzpolitik: Investitionen ermöglichen!," IMK Report 152-2019, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    4. Maximilian v. Ehrlich & Tobias Seidel, 2018. "The Persistent Effects of Place-Based Policy: Evidence from the West-German Zonenrandgebiet," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 344-374, November.
    5. Wolfgang Dauth & Jens Suedekum, 2016. "Globalization and local profiles of economic growth and industrial change," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(5), pages 1007-1034.
    6. Jeffrey M Wooldridge, 2010. "Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262232588, December.
    7. Gerber, Alan S. & Gimpel, James G. & Green, Donald P. & Shaw, Daron R., 2011. "How Large and Long-lasting Are the Persuasive Effects of Televised Campaign Ads? Results from a Randomized Field Experiment," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 105(1), pages 135-150, February.
    8. Gouvêa, Raphael & Girardi, Daniele, 2021. "Partisanship and local fiscal policy: Evidence from Brazilian cities," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 150(C).
    9. Wolfgang Dauth & Michaela Fuchs & Anne Otto, 2018. "Long‐run processes of geographical concentration and dispersion: Evidence from Germany," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(3), pages 569-593, August.
    10. Michael Storper, 2018. "Separate Worlds? Explaining the current wave of regional economic polarization," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(2), pages 247-270.
    11. Laura A. Reese & Gary Sands & Mark Skidmore, 2014. "Memo from Motown: is austerity here to stay?," Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Cambridge Political Economy Society, vol. 7(1), pages 99-118.
    12. Plümper, Thomas & Troeger, Vera E., 2019. "Not so Harmless After All: The Fixed-Effects Model," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 27(1), pages 21-45, January.
    13. Camagni, Roberto, 2002. "On the concept of territorial competitiveness: sound or misleading?," ERSA conference papers ersa02p518, European Regional Science Association.
    14. Felix Arnold & Ronny Freier & René Geissler & Philipp Schrauth, 2015. "Große regionale Disparitäten bei den kommunalen Investitionen," DIW Wochenbericht, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 82(43), pages 1031-1040.
    15. Roberto Camagni, 2002. "On the Concept of Territorial Competitiveness: Sound or Misleading?," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 39(13), pages 2395-2411, December.
    16. Abiad (ADB), Abdul & Furceri (IMF and University of Palermo), Davide & Topalova (IMF), Petia, 2016. "The macroeconomic effects of public investment: Evidence from advanced economies," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 224-240.
    17. Suzanna De Boef & Luke Keele, 2008. "Taking Time Seriously," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 52(1), pages 184-200, January.
    18. Nickell, Stephen J, 1981. "Biases in Dynamic Models with Fixed Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(6), pages 1417-1426, November.
    19. Ron Martin & James Simmie, 2008. "The theoretical bases of urban competitiveness : does proximity matter ?," Revue d'économie régionale et urbaine, Armand Colin, vol. 0(3), pages 333-351.
    20. Arthur Benz, 0. "From Unitary to Asymmetric Federalism in Germany: Taking Stock after 50 Years," PPublius: The Journal of Federalism, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 55-78.
    21. J. F. M. De Jong & M. Ferdinandusse & J. Funda, 2018. "Public capital in the 21st century: as productive as ever?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 50(51), pages 5543-5560, November.
    22. Manuel Arellano & Stephen Bond, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 277-297.
    23. Elisabeth R Gerber & Daniel J Hopkins, 2011. "When Mayors Matter: Estimating the Impact of Mayoral Partisanship on City Policy," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 55(2), pages 326-339, April.
    24. Goerl, Caroline & Rauch, Anna & Thöne, Michael, 2014. "Schwerpunkte kommunaler Ausgabenlasten im Ländervergleich [Major components of local government expenditure compared across German territorial states]," FiFo Reports - FiFo-Berichte 16, University of Cologne, FiFo Institute for Public Economics.
    25. Galli, Emma & Rossi, Stefania P S, 2002. "Political Budget Cycles: The Case of the Western German Lander," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 110(3-4), pages 283-303, March.
    26. Laron K. Williams & Guy D. Whitten, 2011. "Dynamic simulations of autoregressive relationships," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 11(4), pages 577-588, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Katja Rietzler, 2022. "Kommunen zentral für Jahrzehnt der Zukunftsinvestitionen [Municipalities Central to Decade of Future Investments]," Wirtschaftsdienst, Springer;ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 102(1), pages 27-30, January.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Dilla, Diana, 2017. "Staatsverschuldung und Verschuldungsmentalität [Public Debt and Debt Mentality]," MPRA Paper 79432, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Peppel-Srebrny, Jemima, 2021. "Not all government budget deficits are created equal: Evidence from advanced economies' sovereign bond markets," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 118(C).
    3. Juergen Bitzer & Erkan Goeren, 2018. "Foreign Aid and Subnational Development: A Grid Cell Analysis," Working Papers V-407-18, University of Oldenburg, Department of Economics, revised Mar 2018.
    4. Sarma, Sisira & Zaric, Gregory S. & Campbell, M. Karen & Gilliland, Jason, 2014. "The effect of physical activity on adult obesity: Evidence from the Canadian NPHS panel," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 14(C), pages 1-21.
    5. Andrés Rodríguez-Pose & Tobias D. Ketterer, 2012. "Do Local Amenities Affect The Appeal Of Regions In Europe For Migrants?," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(4), pages 535-561, October.
    6. Schumann, Martin & Severini, Thomas A. & Tripathi, Gautam, 2021. "Integrated likelihood based inference for nonlinear panel data models with unobserved effects," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 223(1), pages 73-95.
    7. Hyunseok Kim & GianCarlo Moschini, 2018. "The Dynamics of Supply: U.S. Corn and Soybeans in the Biofuel Era," Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) Publications 18-wp579, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University.
    8. de Souza, Joao Paulo A., 2015. "Evidence of growth complementarity between agriculture and industry in developing countries," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 1-18.
    9. Reyna, Debora & Céspedes, Nikita, 2016. "La Oferta Laboral en Perú," Working Papers 2016-017, Banco Central de Reserva del Perú.
    10. Gnangnon, Sèna Kimm, 2022. "Duration of WTO Membership and Investment-Oriented Remittances Flows," EconStor Preprints 251274, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    11. Joseph L. Dieleman & Michael Hanlon, 2014. "Measuring The Displacement And Replacement Of Government Health Expenditure," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(2), pages 129-140, February.
    12. Beate Jochimsen & Robert Lehmann, 2017. "On the political economy of national tax revenue forecasts: evidence from OECD countries," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 170(3), pages 211-230, March.
    13. Afonso, António & Jalles, João Tovar, 2019. "The Fiscal consequences of deflation: Evidence from the Golden Age of Globalization," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 129-147.
    14. Shanti Gamper-Rabindran & Stephen Finger, 2013. "Does industry self-regulation reduce pollution? Responsible Care in the chemical industry," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 1-30, January.
    15. Corvalan, Alejandro & Cox, Paulo & Osorio, Rodrigo, 2018. "Indirect political budget cycles: Evidence from Chilean municipalities," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 1-14.
    16. Raul Caruso & Marco Di Domizio & Domenico Rossignoli, 2017. "Aggregate wages of players and performance in Italian Serie A," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 34(3), pages 515-531, December.
    17. Albulena Basha & Wendong Zhang & Chad E. Hart, 2021. "The Impacts of Interest Rate Changes on US Midwest Farmland Values," Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) Publications 21-wp614, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University.
    18. Armey, Laura E. & McNab, Robert M., 2018. "Expenditure decentralization and natural resources," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 52-61.
    19. Harald Oberhofer & Christian Glocker & Werner Hölzl & Peter Huber & Serguei Kaniovski & Klaus Nowotny & Michael Pfaffermayr & Monique Ebell & Nikolaos Kontogiannis, 2016. "Single Market Transmission Mechanisms Before, During and After the 2008-09 Crisis. A Quantitative Assessment," WIFO Studies, WIFO, number 59156, October.
    20. Umut Oguzoglu, 2016. "Disability and Multi-State Labour Force Choices with State Dependence," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 92(296), pages 28-46, March.

    More about this item


    constrained partisanship; fiscal federalism; Germany; local politics; public investment; Deutschland; Fiskalföderalismus; Lokalpolitik; öffentliche Investitionen; politische Parteien;
    All these keywords.

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    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:zbw:mpifgd:214. 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: .

    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 bibliographic 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.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    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.