• The Political Cost of Public-Private Partnerships: Theory and Evidence from Colombian Infrastructure Development, with Anthony Bertelli and Camila Angulo Amaya, forthcoming in Governance

Abstract: Infrastructure public-private partnerships (PPPs) eschew traditional public management to provide distributive goods worldwide. Yet, in Colombia, the context of our study, both the promise of and voters’ experience with PPPs hinder incumbent parties in elections when theories of distributive politics expect otherwise. We argue that negative experiences with PPPs introduce a sociotropic turn in individual voting: bad experience crowds out the possibility that promising a new project will improve a voter’s own welfare. Studying what are to our knowledge all 109 Colombian PPP projects between 1998-2014, and over 8,700 individual survey responses, our evidence shows that vote intention for the incumbent executive or his party decreases as experience with more PPPs in respondents’ districts increases. Our analysis and results introduce an important agenda for research into the political significance of these legacies of New Public Management.

Working Papers:

  • Corruption, Democracy and Infrastructure Agreements, with Anthony Bertelli and Valentina Mele (Revise & Resubmit)

Abstract: Do political institutions moderate the influence of corruption on privately financed infrastructure projects?  We develop and test a theory that electoral competition incentivizes politicians to monitor bureaucratic corruption and focus on the public benefits of projects. Without such incentives, corruption is not monitored and the private benefits of bribes and favorable contract terms are responsible for increasing numbers of projects. Using regression models for count data, we study a panel of 116 countries between 1984-2012, finding support for our argument. As public sector corruption increases in democracies, no change in the number of projects is observed, while more projects emerge in non-democracies as corruption worsens. Our findings suggest that improved democracy at the ballot box substitutes for the “benefit” of corruption in stimulating infrastructure projects.

  • Electoral Accountability, Public Officials and Surrogacy Behaviours (under review)

Abstract: Improving knowledge regarding how to produce predictable, regular outcomes in democratic governance is a fundamental objective of the public administration scholar. However, surprisingly little is known about how changes to national politics can affect the behaviour of local public officials. Using novel data on a political scandal in Italy and a Difference-in-Differences estimation strategy, I provide evidence that a sudden increase in electoral accountability for national deputies impacts negatively upon the behaviour of local-level public officials. In treated districts, where deputies are accused of malfeasance, local level bureaucratic corruption increases significantly as compared to non-treated districts. This situation was made possible, I argue, by a de facto system of political appointments in the bureaucracy. My results show how, in contexts characterised by systemic corruption, changes intended to enhance accountability can trigger a series of mechanisms within the political machine leading to overall welfare-decreasing outcomes enacted through the bureaucracy.

  • The Distributive Politics of Privately Financed Infrastructure Agreements

Abstract: A question of first order importance in political science is whether citizens are able to hold their political representatives accountable for government performance, by evaluating incumbents’ ability to provide public services. However, little is known about how hybrid forms of public service delivery disrupt traditional patterns of distributive politics. Privately financed infrastructure agreements (PFIAs) are an increasingly popular form of hybrid public service delivery that is being used extensively across the globe. I analyse whether or not PFIAs follow nonprogrammatic distributive patterns and explore how a project’s features affect its distributive use. My novel geo-coded dataset linking public infrastructure PFIAs to subnational electoral districts in 13 low- and middle-income countries over 24 years, allows me to undertake a cross-national analysis of how PFIAs are electorally distributed. Results show that PFIAs are used to target government-aligned swing districts. However, when projects are less directly attributable to the government this targeting pattern disappears, suggesting that other political logics are at work when governments cannot convincingly claim credit for projects.

  • Do Electoral Rules Matter for Female Representation?, with Paola Profeta (under review)

Abstract: How do electoral rules affect the representation of women? We collect panel data on the universe of Italian politicians from all levels of government over the period 1987-2013 and obtain a complete picture of the career paths of male and female politicians across the whole arc of their careers in public office. We use our unique dataset to analyse the effects on female political representation of an Italian reform which, in 2005, changed the electoral rule for national elections from (mostly) majoritarian to proportional, but did not affect sub-national level elections. We find that proportional electoral rules favour the election of women. We interpret our finding as a result of the different nature of political competition in the two electoral systems: under proportional rules, women are found more frequently in safe seats. This is consistent with the fact that proportional systems value gender diversity more than majoritarian ones, while majoritarian systems rely on head-to-head electoral races, which are not gender neutral. We also find that electoral rules have weaker effects on female representation in geographical areas where traditional gender roles are dominant.

  • Infrastructure Partnerships in an Expanding European Union, with Anthony Bertelli and Alfonso Maselli

Abstract:  Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have played an increasingly large role in infrastructure development in the central and eastern European countries that have joined the European Union in recent years. Does accession alter patterns of reliance on PPPs for infrastructure development? Using cross-national data from 17 European countries, we employ both a regression discontinuity design and a Difference-in-Differences strategy to provide evidence that both the number and size of PPPs decreases after countries become EU member states. Accession countries have a strong signal that their political and economic institutions are attractive to private partners. Instead, we find that PPP usage decreases. Our preliminary results suggest that governments can refocus their efforts away from infrastructure development after meeting accession criteria, unless they acquire more structural funds from the EU to support it. Moreover, political demands for expenditure from greater party representation in the legislature do not increase the attractiveness of funding distributive goods through PPPs.

All working papers are available upon request.