Advertisement

Public Choice

, Volume 88, Issue 3–4, pp 275–293 | Cite as

Rethinking ward and at-large elections in cities: Total spending, the number of locations of selected city services, and policy types

  • Laura I. Langbein
  • Philip Crewson
  • Charles Niel Brasher
Article

Abstract

This study shows why the conventional wisdom that cities with ward elections will spend more than cities with at-large elections is too simple and explains why the empirical findings have been so mixed. Ward vs. at-large elections will only affect the policy choices of city councils when the policy choice is one that is decided by the median legislator. When the policy is one that is decided by the rule of universalism, the relevant institutional determinant of choice is the number of legislators, and not whether they are elected at-large or by wards. Universalism is politically rational for divisible policies that all constituents deisre (“pork”); the majority rule equilibrium (at the median) is more rational for divisible policies that are generally desired, but only when they are not located too close to any one constituent's home (“LULUs”). The expectation then is that larger city councils will provide more parks than smaller ones, and that election by wards or at-large will be irrelevant for these policy choices. By contrast, community centers and libraries are thought to be generally desireable, but not when they are in one's backyard. The size of the council is not predicted to be relevant for these decisions, but councils elected by wards are more likely to have a median legislator who represents geographically concentrated constituents, such as the minority poor; their preferences will have a bigger impact on councils elected by wards than on councils elected at large. Data from a sample of council-manager cities with weak mayors who have no veto uphold these hypotheses.

Keywords

Public Finance Large City Empirical Finding Majority Rule Community Center 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Benson, C.S. and Lund, P.B. (1969) Neighborhood distribution of local public services. Institute of Governmental Studies, University of California, Berkeley, Calif.Google Scholar
  2. Booms, B. (1966). City government form and public expenditure levels. National Tax Journal 19(2): 187–199.Google Scholar
  3. Clark, D.E. and Cosgrove, J.C. (1990). Hedonic prices, identification, and the demand for public safety. Journal of Regional Science 30(1): 105–121.Google Scholar
  4. Cole, L. (1974). Electing blacks to municipal office: Structural and social determinants. Urban Affairs Quarterly 10 (September): 17–39.Google Scholar
  5. Correll, M.R., Lillydahl, J.H. and Singell, I.D. (1978). The effects of greenbelts on residential property values: Some findings on the political economy of open space. Land Economics 54: 207–217.Google Scholar
  6. Cox, G. (1990). Multicandidate spatial competition. In J.M. Enelow and M. Hinich (Eds.) Advances in the spatial theory of voting, Ch. 8. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Dalenberg, D.R. and Duffy-Deno, K.T. (1991). At-large vs. ward elections: Implications for public infrastructure. Public Choice 70: 335–342.Google Scholar
  8. Deno, K. and Mehay, S.L. (1987). Municipal management structure and fiscal performance: Do city managers make a difference? Southern Economic Journal 53 (3): 627–642.Google Scholar
  9. Farnham, P.G. (1990). The impact of citizen influence on local government expenditure. Public Choice 64: 201–212.Google Scholar
  10. Farnharm, P.G. (1986). The impact of government functional responsibility on local expenditures. Urban Affairs Quarterly 22(1): 151–165.Google Scholar
  11. Feiock, R.D. (n.d.) Municipal representation, constituency choice, and economic development. Department of Politics and Public Affairs, University of Miami.Google Scholar
  12. Fenno, R.F., Jr. (1978). Homestyle: House members in their districts. Boston, MA. Little, Brown.Google Scholar
  13. Gonzalez, R.A. and Mehay, S.L. (1987). Municipal annexation and local monopoly power. Public Choice 52: 245–255.Google Scholar
  14. Guntermann, K.L. and Colwell, P.F. (1983). Property values and accessibility to schools. The Real Estate Appraiser and Analyst 49 (Spring): 62–68.Google Scholar
  15. Hammer, T.R., Coughlin, R.E. and Horn, E.T. (1974). The effect of a large urban park on real estate value. Journal of the American Institute of Planners 40: 274–277.Google Scholar
  16. Heilig, P. and Mundt, R.J. (1983). Changes in representative equity: The effect of adopting districts. Social Science Quarterly 64(2): 393–397.Google Scholar
  17. Hird, J.A. (1990). Superfund expenditures and cleanup priorities: Distributive politics or the public interest. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 9(4): 455–483.Google Scholar
  18. Hughes, W.T. Jr. and Sirmans, C.F. (1992). Traffic externalities and single-family house prices. Journal of Regional Science 32 (4): 487–500.Google Scholar
  19. Karnig, A.K. and Welch, S. (1982). Electoral structure and black representatives on city councils. Social Science Quarterly 63 (1): 99–114.Google Scholar
  20. Lineberry, R.L. (1977). Equality and urban policy. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  21. Lineberry, R.L. (Ed.) (1978). The politics and economics of urban services. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  22. Lowi, T. (1964). American business, public policy, case-studies, and political theory. World Politics 16: 677–715.Google Scholar
  23. McMillen, M.L., Reid, G.B. and Gillen, D.W. (1980). An extension of the hedonic approach for estimating the value of quiet. Land Economics 56 (3): 315–327.Google Scholar
  24. Mehay, S.L. and Seiden, K.P. (1986). Municipal residency laws and local public budgets. Public Choice 48: 27–35.Google Scholar
  25. Mitchell, D.W. and Trumbull, W.N. (1992). Frequency of paradox in a common N-winner voting scheme. Public Choice 73(1): 55–69.Google Scholar
  26. Morgan, D.R. and Pelissero, J.P. (1980). Urban policy: Does political structure matter? American Political Science Review 74(4): 999–1006.Google Scholar
  27. O'Hare, M. and Sanderson, D. (1993). Facility siting and compensation: Lessons from the Massachusetts Experience. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 12(2): 364–376.Google Scholar
  28. Reid, G.J. (1991). Tests of institutional vs. non-institutional models of local public expenditure determination. Public Choice 70: 315–333.Google Scholar
  29. Riker, W.H. and Ordeshook, P.C. (1973). An introduction to positive political theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  30. Santerre, R. (1986). Representative vs. direct democracy: A Tiebout test of relative performance. Public Choice 48: 55–63.Google Scholar
  31. Santerre, R. (1989). Representative vs. direct democracy: Are there any expenditure differences? Public Choice 60: 145–154.Google Scholar
  32. Sass, T.R. (1991). The choice of municipal government structure and public expenditures. Public Choice 71: 71–87.Google Scholar
  33. Schneider, M. (1986). Fragmentation and the growth of local government. Public Choice 48: 255–263.Google Scholar
  34. Shepsle, K. and Weingast, B. (1984). Political solutions to market problems. American Political Science Review (June): 417–434.Google Scholar
  35. Vedlitz, A. and Johnson, C.A. (1982). Community racial segregation, electoral structure, and minority representation. Social Science Quarterly 63 (4): 29–36.Google Scholar
  36. Weicher, J.R. and Zerbst, R.H. (1973). The externalities of neighborhood parks: An empirical examination. Land Economics 49: 99–105.Google Scholar
  37. Weingast, B., Shepsle, K. and Johnsen, C. (1981). The political economy of benefits and costs: A neo-classical approach to the politics of distribution. Journal of Political Economy 89: 642–664.Google Scholar
  38. Welch, S. (1990). The impact of at-large elections on the representation of blacks and hispanics. Journal of Politics 52 (4): 1050–1076.Google Scholar
  39. Welch, S. and Bledsoe, T. (1988). Urban reform and its consequences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  40. Zax, J.S. (1989). Initiatives and government expenditures. Public Choice 63: 267–277.Google Scholar
  41. Zax, J.S. (1990). Reform city councils and municipal employees. Public Choice 64: 167–177.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura I. Langbein
    • 1
  • Philip Crewson
    • 1
  • Charles Niel Brasher
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Public AffairsAmerican UniversityWashington
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceMankato State UniversityMankato

Personalised recommendations