Pork Barrel Cycles

36 Pages Posted: 25 May 2006 Last revised: 14 Jun 2006

See all articles by Allan Drazen

Allan Drazen

University of Maryland - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Marcela Eslava

University of the Andes (CEDE)

Date Written: May 2006


We present a model of political budget cycles in which incumbents influence voters by targeting government spending to specific groups of voters at the expense of other voters or other expenditures. Each voter faces a signal extraction problem: being targeted with expenditure before the election may reflect opportunistic manipulation, but may also reflect a sincere preference of the incumbent for the types of spending that voter prefers. We show the existence of a political equilibrium in which rational voters support an incumbent who targets them with spending before the election even though they know it may be electorally motivated. In equilibrium voters in the more "swing" regions are targeted at the expense of types of spending not favored by these voters. This will be true even if they know they live in swing regions. However, the responsiveness of these voters to electoral manipulation depends on whether they face some degree of uncertainty about the electoral importance of the group they are in. Use of targeted spending also implies voters can be influenced without election-year deficits, consistent with recent findings for established democracies.

Suggested Citation

Drazen, Allan and Eslava, Marcela, Pork Barrel Cycles (May 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w12190. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=900096

Allan Drazen (Contact Author)

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742-1815
United States
301-405-3477 (Phone)
301-405-7835 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Marcela Eslava

University of the Andes (CEDE) ( email )

Carrera 1a No. 18A-10
Santafe de Bogota, AA4976

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