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

Link available here:

  • Corruption, Democracy and Infrastructure Agreements, with Anthony Bertelli and Valentina Mele, in Administration & Society

Abstract: Do political institutions moderate the influence of corruption on privately financed infrastructure projects? We argue 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. Studying 116 countries between 1984 and 2012, we find that 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.

Link available here:

Working Papers:

  • 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 Politicians Benefit from Hybrid Governance? Experimental Evidence from the United States, with Paolo Belardinelli and Anthony Bertelli (under review)

Abstract: How does the mode of public service delivery affect how voters attribute responsibility for distributive goods? Through a survey experiment on over a thousand U.S. citizens, we provide micro-foundational evidence regarding how the allocation of distributive goods shapes voters’ preferences over incumbent politicians. We find that voters prefer a mixture of public-private financing and management when it comes to the delivery of infrastructure. However, once performance information is available, the mode of infrastructure delivery no longer influences electoral outcomes. The successful delivery of these infrastructure projects is what ultimately matters to voters. Delving deeper, we show that the preference for a mixture of public and private involvement in public service delivery is driven by citizens with high political knowledge. Such citizens are also the most likely to punish the incumbent for a failed first phase of the public service delivery. Our findings deepen our understanding of how hybrid forms of public service delivery can be used as distributive goods and the risks/benefits that they pose for governments in terms of how to claim credit for them.

  • Electoral Rules, Women’s Representation and the
    Qualification of Politicians,
    with Paola Profeta (under review)

Abstract: Proportional electoral rules favour the election of women with respect to majoritarian ones. To provide causal evidence that electoral rules affect women’s representation and the qualification of politicians, we collect panel data on the universe of Italian politicians from all levels of government over the period 1987-2013 and analyse
an Italian reform which, in 2005, changed the electoral rule for national elections from (mostly) majoritarian to proportional, but did not affect subnational level elections. We find that this reform increased the number of women elected, while not decreasing the qualification levels of politicians. We provide evidence of a negative selection effect under proportional rules: the elected women are not the best candidates and the qualification of elected politicians could have increased (rather than remain constant) if the best female candidates had been elected. Our results are stronger in gender  traditional regions, suggesting that culture matters in terms of how electoral rules affect female political representation.

  • 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.