Public Choice

, Volume 139, Issue 1–2, pp 5–19 | Cite as

Geographical redistribution with disproportional representation: a politico-economic model of Norwegian road projects

  • Leif Helland
  • Rune J. SørensenEmail author


Politicians bias public policies to favor particular election districts. According to the traditional common pool model, districts facing low tax shares should receive relatively large government projects. We suggest a swing-voter model where the number of voters on the ideological cut point, lack of party identification and number of district representatives per voter determine project sizes. We analyze the allocation of state road investments in Norway from 1973–1997 exploiting unique data on characteristics of voters, legislative representation and tax prices in 19 election districts. Geographical representation to parliament is biased, mostly due to an ancient constitution. Shares of swing voters and legislative over-representation lead to higher levels of road investments, while high levels of party identification reduce investments.


Distributive politics Proportional representation Game theory Party competition Infrastructure investments 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ansolabere, S., Gerber, A., & Snyder, J. (2002). Eequal votes, equal money: court-ordered redistricting and the distribution of public expenditures in the American states. American Political Science Review, 96, 767–777. Google Scholar
  2. Atlas, C., Gilligan, T., Hendershott, R., & Zupan, M. (1995). Slicing the federal governments net spending pie: who wins, who loses, and why. American Economic Review, 85, 624–629. Google Scholar
  3. Baron, D. (1993). A theory of collective choice for government programs. Research Paper 1240, Stanford Business School. Google Scholar
  4. Baron, D., & Ferejohn, J. (1989). Bargaining in Legislatures. American Political Science Review, 83(4), 1181–1206. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baqir, R. (2002). Districting and government overspending. Journal of Political Economy, 110, 1318–1354. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Borge, L., & Rattsø, J. (1997). Local government grants and income tax revenue: redistributive politics in Norway 1900–1990. Public Choice, 92, 181–197. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Borge, L., & Rattsø, J. (2002). Spending growth with vertical fiscal imbalance: decentralized government spending in Norway, 1880–1990. Economics and Politics, 14, 351–373. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Case, A. (2001). Election goals and income redistribution: Recent evidence from Albania. European Economic Review, 45, 405–423. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chari, V., & Cole, H. (1995). A contribution to the theory of pork barrel spending (Mimeo). Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Google Scholar
  10. Cox, G., & McCubbins, M. (1986). Electoral politics as a redistributive game. The Journal of Politics, 48(2), 370–389. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dahlberg, M., & Johansson, E. (2002). On the purchasing behavior of incumbent governments. American Political Science Review, 96(1), 27–40. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Del Rossi, A. (1995). The politics of pork barrel spending: The case of federal financing of water resources development. Public Choice, 85, 285–305. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Del Rossi, A., & Inman, R. (1999). Changing the price of pork: the impact of local cost sharing on legislators’ demands for distributive public goods. Journal of Public Economics, 71(2), 247–273. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dixit, A., & Londregan, J. (1996). The determinants of success of special interests in redistributive politics. The Journal of Politics, 58(4), 1132–1155. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Drazen, A. (2000). Political economy in macroeconomics. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar
  16. Elvik, R. (1995). Explaining the distribution of funds for national road investments between counties in Norway: engineering standards or vote trading? Public Choice, 85, 371–388. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gilligan, T., & Matsusaka, J. (1995). Deviations from constituent interests: the role of legislative structure and political parties in the states. Economic Inquiry, 33(3), 383–401. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gilligan, T., & Matsusaka, J. (2001). Fiscal policy, legislature size, and political parties: evidence from state and local governments in the first half of the 20th century. National Tax Journal, 54(1), 57–82. Google Scholar
  19. Hird, J. (1991). The political economy of pork: project selection at the US army corps of engineers. American Political Science Review, 85, 429–456. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Horiuchi, Y., & Saito, J. (2003). Reapportionment and redistribution: consequences of electoral reform in Japan. American Journal of Political Science, 47, 669–682. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Inman, R., & Fitts, M. (1990). Political institutions and fiscal policy: evidence from the US historical record. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 6, 79–132. Google Scholar
  22. Johansson, E. (2003). Intergovernmental grants as a tactical instrument: empirical evidence from Swedish municipalities. Journal of Public Economics, 87, 883–915. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lee, F. (1998). Representation and public policy: the consequences of senate apportionment for the geographic distribution of federal funds. Journal of Politics, 60, 34–62. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lindbeck, A., & Weibull, J. (1987). Balanced-budget redistribution as the outcome of political competition. Public Choice, 52, 273–297. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McCubbins, M., & Schwartz, T. (1988). Congress, the courts, and public policy: consequences of the one man, one vote rule. American Journal of Political Science, 32, 388–415. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Persson, T., & Tabellini, G. (2000). Political economics: explaining economic policy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  27. Strömberg, D. (1998). Radio’s impact on public spending (Mimeo). Stockholm, Institute for International Economic Studies. Google Scholar
  28. Weingast, B. (1979). A rational choice perspective on congressional norms. American Journal of Political Science, 23, 245–262. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Weingast, B., Shepsle, K., & Johnson, C. (1981). The political economy of benefits and costs: a neoclassical approach to distributive politics. Journal of Political Economy, 89, 642–664. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Wittman, D. (1995). The myth of democratic failure: why political institutions are efficient. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Google Scholar
  31. Wright, G. (1974). The political economy of New Deal spending: an econometric analysis. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 56, 30–38. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Norwegian School of Management (BI)OsloNorway

Personalised recommendations