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Direct democracy and local public finances under cooperative federalism

  • Asatryan, Zareh
  • Baskaran, Thushyanthan
  • Grigoriadis, Theocharis
  • Heinemann, Friedrich

This paper exploits the introduction of the right of referenda at the local level in the German state of Bavaria in 1995 to study the fiscal effects of direct democracy. In the first part of the paper, we establish the relationship between referenda activity and fiscal performance by using a new dataset containing information on all 2500 voter initiatives between 1995 to 2011. This selection on observables approach, however, suffers from obvious endogeneity problems in this application. The main part of the paper exploits population dependent discontinuities in the signature and quorum requirements of referenda to implement a regression discontinuity design (RDD). To safeguard against co-treatments that might affect fiscal outcomes simultaneously at the same thresholds, we validate our results by extending the RDD approach to a difference-in-discontinuity (DiD) design. By studying direct legislation in an archetypical cooperative federation as Germany, our paper extends the literature to a novel institutional setting. The results indicate that in our setting - and in contrast to most of the evidence from Switzerland and the US - direct democracy causes an expansion of local government budgets.

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Paper provided by ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research in its series ZEW Discussion Papers with number 13-038.

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Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:13038
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  1. McCrary, Justin, 2008. "Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 698-714, February.
  2. Jeffrey Zax, 1989. "Initiatives and government expenditures," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 63(3), pages 267-277, December.
  3. Patricia Funk & Christina Gathmann, 2007. "Does direct democracy reduce the size of government? New evidence from historical data, 1890-2000," Economics Working Papers 1123, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2008.
  4. Joshua Angrist & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 2010. "The Credibility Revolution in Empirical Economics: How Better Research Design is Taking the Con out of Econometrics," NBER Working Papers 15794, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Guido Imbens & Thomas Lemieux, 2007. "Regression Discontinuity Designs: A Guide to Practice," NBER Technical Working Papers 0337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Blomberg, S.B. & Hess, G.D., 1999. "The Impact of Voter Initiatives on Economic Activity," Papers 99-11, Wellesley College - Department of Economics.
  7. Veronica Grembi & Tommaso Nannicini & Ugo Troiano, 2011. "Policy Responses to Fiscal Restraints: A Difference-in-Discontinuities Design," Working Papers 397, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  8. Lars P. Feld & Jan Schnellenbach & Christoph A Schaltegger, 2004. "On Government Centralization and Fiscal Referendums: A Theoretical Model and Evidence from Switzerland," Marburg Working Papers on Economics 200419, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  9. Robert Salvino & Michael T. Tasto & Geoffrey K. Turnbull, 2012. "A direct test of direct democracy: New England town meetings," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(18), pages 2393-2402, June.
  10. Stefano Gagliarducci & Tommaso Nannicini, 2008. "Do Better Paid Politicians Perform Better? Disentangling Incentives from Selection," Working Papers 346, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  11. Hallerberg, Mark & Strauch, Rolf & von Hagen, Jürgen, 2004. "The design of fiscal rules and forms of governance in European Union countries," Working Paper Series 0419, European Central Bank.
  12. Pettersson-Lidbom, Per, 2012. "Does the size of the legislature affect the size of government? Evidence from two natural experiments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 269-278.
  13. 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 642-64, August.
  14. Robert P. Inman, 1996. "Do Balanced Budget Rules Work? U.S. Experience and Possible Lessons for the EMU," NBER Working Papers 5838, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Baskaran, Thushyanthan, 2012. "The flypaper effect: evidence from a natural experiment in Hesse," MPRA Paper 37144, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  16. repec:cto:journl:v:20:y:2000:i:2:p:255-277 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
  18. Lee, David S., 2008. "Randomized experiments from non-random selection in U.S. House elections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 675-697, February.
  19. Peter Egger & Marko Koethenbuerger, 2010. "Government Spending and Legislative Organization: Quasi-experimental Evidence from Germany," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 200-212, October.
  20. Lars P Feld & Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2001. "The political economy of direct legislation: direct democracy and local decision-making," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(33), pages 329-367, October.
  21. Xavier Debrun & Laurent Moulin & Alessandro Turrini & Joaquim Ayuso-i-Casals & Manmohan S. Kumar, 2008. "Tied to the mast? National fiscal rules in the European Union," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 23, pages 297-362, 04.
  22. Sergio Galletta & Mario Jametti, 2012. "How to Tame Two Leviathans? Revisiting the Effect of Direct Democracy on Local Public Expenditure," Quaderni della facoltà di Scienze economiche dell'Università di Lugano 1207, USI Università della Svizzera italiana.
  23. Dale Bails and Margie A. Tieslau, 2000. "The Impact of Fiscal Constitutions on State and Local Expenditures," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 20(2), Fall.
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