Democratic reform and opposition to government expenditure

Evidence from nineteenth-century britain

Jonathan Chapman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Several theories have argued that democratic reform will lead to higher government spending. However, these theories have generally focused on expenditure on redistribution rather than expenditure on public goods. This paper presents a model predicting that democratization leads to lower government expenditure on infrastructure if the median pre-reform voter is middle class. This prediction is tested using a new panel data set of town council infrastructure spending and revenue in nineteenth-century Britain. An 1894 national reform implementing a system of "one-household-one-vote" and the secret ballot is used as the treatment event in a difference-in-difference analysis. The results show that democratic reform led to lower levels of town council spending on public goods, including water supply and other public infrastructure, relative to towns that were democratized at an earlier date. In line with the theoretical prediction, this negative effect was strongest when democratic reform transferred power from the middle class to the poor.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)363-404
    Number of pages42
    JournalQuarterly Journal of Political Science
    Volume13
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

    Fingerprint

    expenditures
    nineteenth century
    opposition
    reform
    town
    evidence
    infrastructure
    middle class
    voter
    redistribution
    water management
    democratization
    revenue
    event

    Keywords

    • Democratization
    • Elections
    • Government spending

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations

    Cite this

    Democratic reform and opposition to government expenditure : Evidence from nineteenth-century britain. / Chapman, Jonathan.

    In: Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Vol. 13, No. 4, 01.01.2018, p. 363-404.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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