Distributive Politics, Fairness, and the Allocation of Disaster Relief
47 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2017 Last revised: 14 Oct 2017
Date Written: April 25, 2017
How would citizens like public resources to be distributed and to what extent do policymakers’ allocation choices mirror those preferences? We investigate this question in the context of disaster relief and develop three theoretical arguments that relate to affectedness, need, and electoral ties. Using experimental data from a representative sample of American citizens we show that voters prefer allocations that reflect affectedness and need, but not electoral ties. We compare these patterns with observed relief aid distributions in the aftermath of natural disasters (1993-2008) in which federal authorities spent over $128 billion in total. Despite a notable degree of congruence between preferred and observed spending decisions, policymakers systematically allocate relief aid based on electoral considerations which conflicts with citizens’ preferences. These results shed light on which fairness norms guide individual preferences over public spending and the extent to which policymakers’ allocation decisions echo those views in democracies.
Keywords: Distributive Politics, Public Opinion, Conjoint Analysis, Disaster Relief
JEL Classification: C83, C90, D72, H12, H50, H84
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation