DP5125 Decentralization and Electoral Accountability: Incentives, Separation and Voter Welfare

Author(s): Jean Hindricks, Ben Lockwood
Publication Date: July 2005
Keyword(s): accountability, Elections, fiscal decentralization
JEL(s): D72, D73, H41
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=5125

This paper studies the relationship between fiscal decentralization and electoral accountability, by analysing how decentralization impacts upon incentive and selection effects, and thus on voter welfare. The model abstracts from features such as public good spillovers or economies of scale, so that absent elections, voters are indifferent about the fiscal regime. The effect of fiscal centralization on voter welfare works through two channels: (i) via its effect on the probability of pooling by the bad incumbent; (ii) conditional on the probability of pooling, the extent to which, with centralization, the incumbent can divert rents in some regions without this being detected by voters in other regions (selective rent diversion). Both these effects depend on the information structure; whether voters only observe fiscal policy in their own region, in all regions, or an intermediate case with a uniform tax across all regions. More voter information does not necessarily raise voter welfare, and under some conditions, voter would choose uniform over differentiated taxes ex ante to constrain selective rent diversion.