Agency Design and Distributive Politics

43 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2010

See all articles by Christopher R. Berry

Christopher R. Berry

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Jacob E. Gersen

Harvard University

Date Written: October 29, 2010


This paper targets the intersection of two generally distinct literatures: political control of administrative agencies and distributive politics. Based on a comprehensive database of federal spending that tracks allocations from each agency to each congressional district for every year from 1984 through 2007, we analyze the responsiveness of agency spending decisions to presidential and congressional influences. Our research design uses district-by-agency fixed effects to identify the effects of a district’s political characteristics on agency spending allocations. Because most agencies distribute federal funds, we are able to provide empirical evidence about the relationship between structural features of administrative agencies and the degree of political responsiveness of their spending decisions. Because allocation of funds constitutes a readily comparable metric over time and across agencies, we are able to evaluate a host of competing hypotheses about the political control of the bureaucracy by both Congress and the President.

Keywords: agency design, bureaucracy, distributive poltiics

Suggested Citation

Berry, Christopher R. and Gersen, Jacob E., Agency Design and Distributive Politics (October 29, 2010). U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 539; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 326. Available at SSRN: or

Christopher R. Berry

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Jacob E. Gersen (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics