When Mayors Matter: Estimating the Impact of Mayoral Partisanship on City Policy

37 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2009 Last revised: 30 Sep 2010

See all articles by Elisabeth R. Gerber

Elisabeth R. Gerber

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Daniel J. Hopkins

University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: September 28, 2010

Abstract

U.S. cities are limited in their ability to set policy. Can these constraints mute the impact of mayors’ partisanship on policy outcomes? We hypothesize that mayoral partisanship will more strongly affect outcomes in policy areas where there is the less shared authority between local, state, and federal governments. To test this hypothesis, we create a novel data set combining U.S. mayoral election returns from 1990 to 2006 with city fiscal data. Using regression discontinuity design, we find that cities that elect a Democratic mayor spend a smaller share of their budget on public safety, a policy area where local discretion is high, than otherwise similar cities that elect a Republican or Independent. We find no differences on tax policy, social policy, and other areas that are characterized by significant overlapping authority. These results suggest that models of national policymaking are only partially applicable to U.S. cities. They also have implications for political accountability: mayors may not be able to influence the full range of policies that are nominally local responsibilities.

Keywords: U.S. cities, fiscal policy, public goods, partisanship, regression discontinuity

Suggested Citation

Gerber, Elisabeth R. and Hopkins, Daniel J., When Mayors Matter: Estimating the Impact of Mayoral Partisanship on City Policy (September 28, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1475237 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1475237

Elisabeth R. Gerber

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy ( email )

412 Lorch Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-647-4004 (Phone)
734-763-9181 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.fordschool.umich.edu/people/Faculty/gerber-e.htm

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

Daniel J. Hopkins (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.danhopkins.org

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