Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 154–176 | Cite as

Self-serving legislators? An analysis of the salary-setting institutions of 27 EU parliaments

  • Karsten Mause
Original Paper


It is often criticized in public debates that politicians in many jurisdictions have the power to set their own salaries. This paper scrutinizes this practice from a constitutional political economy perspective. A novel dataset is presented which provides an empirical overview of the methods used to set the pay for members of parliament (MPs) in the national parliaments of 27 member states of the European Union. There is considerable cross-country variation in this respect. While in the majority of national legislatures MPs to some degree decide on their own salaries (i.e., ‘self-service’ model), in some systems MP pay is set by bodies independent from MPs. A multiple regression analysis provides empirical support for the self-serving-legislators prediction derived from Public Choice theory: controlling for population size and living costs, salaries are systematically higher in legislatures in which MPs have some say in their own salaries. However, this result has to be interpreted with caution as (1) independent wage-setting bodies exist only in five parliaments, and (2) this study could only include MPs’ basic salaries.


Members of parliament Separation of powers Paying politicians European Union 

JEL Classification

D72 J33 J45 



The author is grateful to Jennifer Rontganger, Bernd Schlipphak, Ludger Wortmann, the participants of the European Center for the Study of Public Choice (ECSPC) Conference “Rethinking the Separation of Powers” at the Walter Eucken Institute Freiburg (Germany, May 6–7, 2013), two anonymous referees and the editor, Roger D. Congleton, for their useful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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