Congressional Distributive Politics and State Economic Performance

Steven D. Levitt, James M. Poterba

NBER Working Paper No. 4721
Issued in April 1994
NBER Program(s):Public Economics

This paper tests several theories of the effects of congressional representation on state economic growth. States that were represented by very senior Democratic congressmen grew more quickly during the 1953-1990 period than states that were represented by more junior congressional delegations. We find some, but weaker, evidence that states with a high fraction of their delegation on particularly influential committees also exhibit above-average growth. We also test partisan models of distributive politics by studying the relationship between a state's degree of political competition and its growth rate. Our findings support both nonpartisan and partisan models of congressional distributive politics. In spite of our findings with respect to economic growth, we can not detect any substantively important association between congressional delegation seniority, the degree of state political competition, and the geographic distribution of federal funds. The source of the growth relationships we identify therefore remains an open question.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w4721

Published: Public Choice, Vol. 99 (April 1999): 185-216. citation courtesy of