Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 108–124 | Cite as

Is it all about competence? The human capital of U.S. presidents and economic performance

Original Paper

Abstract

This paper explores the extent to which human capital improves the economic policy competence of US presidents. Several recent studies have used international data to test similar hypotheses. However, international studies suffer from a variety of comparability issues, not all of which can be avoided through fixed effects and error correction. The US results developed in this paper suggest that both career paths and education have significant effects on a president’s economic policy judgment, particularly in the period after the Civil War. However, the paper also suggests that more than good economic management skills are required to win national elections.

Keywords

Public choice Political business cycles Human capital Presidential policy 

JEL Classification

D7 E2 D9 

References

  1. Alesina, A., & Rosenthal, H. (1995). Partisan politics, divided government, and the economy. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berger, M. M., Munger, M. C., & Potthoff, R. F. (2000). The downsian model predicts divergence. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 12, 228–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Besley, T. (2006). Principled agents? The political economy of good government. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Besley, T., Montalvo, J., & Reynal-Querol, M. (2011). Do educated leaders matter? Economic Journal, 121, 205–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Besley, T., & Reynal-Querol, M. (2011). Do democracies select more educated leaders? American Political Science Review, 105, 552–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bordo, M. D., & Rockoff, H. (1996). The gold standard as a ‘good housekeeping’ seal of approval. Journal of Economic History, 56, 389–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Checchi, D. (2006). The economics of education: Human capital, family background, and inequality. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cleveland, F. A., & Powell, F. W. (1909). Railroad promotion and capitalization in the United States. New York, NY: Longmans, Green, and Co.Google Scholar
  9. Congleton, R. D. (2007). Informational limits to democratic public policy: The jury theorem, yardstick competition, and ignorance. Public Choice, 132, 333–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Glass, D. P. (1985). Evaluating presidential candidates: Who focuses on their personal attributes? The Public Opinion Quarterly, 49, 517–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Groseclose, T. (2001). A model of candidate location when one candidate has a valence advantage. American Journal of Political Science, 45, 862–886.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hayo, B., & Voigt, S. (2013). Endogenous constitutions: Politics and politicians matter, economic outcomes don’t. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 88, 47–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hibbs, D. A. (1989). The American political economy: Macroeconomics and electoral politics in the United States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Lowi, T., Ginsberg, B., & Shepsle, K. A. (2002). American government: Power and purpose (7th ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.Google Scholar
  15. MacRae, C. D. (1977). A political model of the business cycle. Journal of Political Economy, 85, 239–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Maddison, A. (2001). Development centre studies, The world economy: A millennial perspective. Paris, France: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.Google Scholar
  17. Mitchell, B. R. (Ed.) (2003). International historical statistics (pp. 1750–2000). New York, NY: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  18. Mondak, J. J. (1995). Competence, integrity, and the electoral success of congressional incumbents. Journal of Politics, 57, 1043–1069.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Nordaus, W. (1975). The political business cycle. Review of Economic Studies, 51, 169–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Peffley, M. (1989). Presidential image and economic performance: A dynamic analysis. Political Behavior, 11, 309–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ridings, W. J., Jr., & McIver, S. B. (1997). Rating the presidents: A ranking of U.S. leaders, from the great and honorable to the dishonest and incompetent. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press.Google Scholar
  22. Simonton, D. K. (1988). Presidential style: Personality, biography, and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 607–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Simonton, D. K. (1995). Personality and intellectual predictors of leadership. In D. H. Saklofske & M. Zeidner (Eds.), International handbook of personality and intelligence (pp. 739–757). New York, NY: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Simonton, D. K. (2006). Presidential IQ, openness, intellectual brilliance, and leadership: estimates and correlations for 42 U.S. chief executives. Political Psychology, 27, 511–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  2. 2.Graduate School of Public AffairsUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations