Public Choice

, Volume 156, Issue 3, pp 443-465

First online:

Ideology and the size of US state government

  • Andrew C. PickeringAffiliated withDepartment of Economics and Related Studies, University of York
  • , James RockeyAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of Leicester Email author 

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This paper theorizes that the impact of ideology on the size of US state governments increases with state income. This idea is tested using state-level ideology data derived from the voting behavior of state congressional representatives. Empirically the interaction of ideology and mean income is a key determinant of state government size. At 1960s levels of income the impact of ideology is negligible. At 1997 levels of income a one standard-deviation move towards the left of the ideology spectrum increases state government size by about half a standard deviation. Estimated income elasticities differentiated by state and time are found to be increasing with ideology and diminishing with income, as predicted by the theory.


Ideology Wagner’s law Size of government

JEL Classification

D72 H10