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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
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:13038
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  9. Patricia Funk & Christina Gathmann, 2009. "Does Direct Democracy Reduce the Size of Government? New Evidence from Historical Data, 1890-2000," CESifo Working Paper Series 2693, CESifo Group Munich.
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  16. 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).
  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. 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.
  19. Peter Egger & Marko Koethenbuerger, 2010. "Government Spending and Legislative Organization: Quasi-experimental evidence from Germany," EPRU Working Paper Series 2010-09, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  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.
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  22. 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.
  23. Baskaran, Thushyanthan, 2012. "The flypaper effect: evidence from a natural experiment in Hesse," MPRA Paper 37144, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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