Electoral Institutions and the National Provision of Local Public Goods

30 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2005

See all articles by Scott Gehlbach

Scott Gehlbach

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Date Written: May 11, 2006

Abstract

I explore the incentives under alternative electoral institutions for national politicians to efficiently provide local public goods. Using a career-concerns models which incorporates voter ideological heterogeneity and thus allows comparison of electoral-college and majoritarian elections at the national level, I show that the aggregation of votes across localities in both electoral-college and majoritarian elections results in a weakening of incentives to efficiently provide local public goods. However, this effect is not unambiguously larger for one electoral institution or the other. Rather, electoral institutions interact with voter preferences to determine incentives. Electoral-college elections provide particularly weak incentives for national politicians to efficiently provide local public goods when there is local ideological bias for the incumbent or challenger, while such bias tends to cancel out in majoritarian elections. Further, electoral-college and majoritarian elections encourage different allocations of effort by national politicians when voters differ across localities in the degree to which they value public-goods provision. When such differences are sharp, electoral-college elections result in better public-goods provision for localities whose voters value public goods less, and majoritarian elections result in better provision for localities whose voters value public goods more.

Keywords: elections, federalism, political accountability, career concerns

JEL Classification: D72, P16

Suggested Citation

Gehlbach, Scott, Electoral Institutions and the National Provision of Local Public Goods (May 11, 2006). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=746125 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.746125

Scott Gehlbach (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin-Madison ( email )

1050 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-263-2391 (Phone)

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