Economics of Governance

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 85–105 | Cite as

Schools and public buildings in decay: the role of political fragmentation

  • Lars-Erik Borge
  • Arnt O. HoplandEmail author
Original Paper


It is a widespread concern that schools and other public buildings are in poor conditions. A popular explanation is that maintenance is given too little priority in the budgetary process because politicians are shortsighted. In this paper we investigate this hypothesis using two novel survey data sets on school and general building conditions in Norwegian local governments. We use political fragmentation as a proxy for myopic behavior and provide strong empirical evidence that a high degree of political fragmentation is associated with poor building conditions, both for schools and for buildings in general. The finding is robust to handling of controls, outliers, and estimation method. We also provide evidence that lack of maintenance is the channel for poor building conditions.


School building conditions Political fragmentation Shortsighted policy 

JEL Classification

H72 H82 



We are grateful for comments from participants at the Meeting of the European Public Choice Society (Rennes), the Congress of International Institute of Public Finance (Ann Arbor), the Norwegian-German Seminar on Public Economics (Munich), a seminar at the University of Maryland College Park, and workshops in Barcelona and Uppsala. We would also like to thank Matz Dahlberg, two referees, and editor Marko Köthenbürger for helpful comments. Per T. Eikeland (leader of the NOU 2004: 22 government commission) and the Office of the Auditor General of Norway have kindly provided survey data on building conditions. Pernille Parmer assisted us in collecting and constructing the data on temperature and precipitation. Some of the data are obtained from the Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD). This paper is part of a project funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. The authors bear the responsibility for the analyses and the conclusions that are drawn.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  2. 2.Department of Business and Management ScienceNorwegian School of EconomicsBergenNorway

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