Government Spending and Re-election: Quasi-experimental Evidence from Brazilian Municipalities
Abstract: Does additional government spending improve the electoral chances of incumbent political parties? This paper provides the first quasi-experimental evidence on this question. Our research design exploits discontinuities in federal funding to local governments in Brazil around several population cutoffs over the period 1982-1985. We find that extra fiscal transfers resulted in a 20% increase in local government spending per capita, and an increase of about 10 percentage points in the re-election probability of local incumbent parties. We also find positive effects of the government spending on education outcomes and earnings, which we interpret as indirect evidence of public service improvements. Together, our results provide evidence that electoral rewards encourage incumbents to spend part of additional revenues on public services valued by voters, a finding in line with agency models of electoral accountability.