• 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:

  • Electoral Accountability, Public Officials’ Behaviour and Democratic Legitimacy, Eleanor Florence Woodhouse.

Abstract: The difference between how democracies work in theory and in practice is at the heart of the discipline of public administration. 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 established democracies can develop pathologies even after many years of democratic rule. I approach the question by analysing a case of dysfunction in an established democracy. 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 that, in a dysfunctional democracy, an accountability-enhancing phenomenon can trigger a series of mechanisms within the political machine that lead to overall welfare-decreasing outcomes enacted through the bureaucracy. This has implications for how democracies and their bureaucracies are designed.

  • Public-Private Partnerships, Distributive Politics, and Infrastructure Development, Eleanor Florence Woodhouse.

Abstract: This article analyses whether or not public-private partnerships (PPPs) are used as distributive goods and how a project’s features affect its distributive use. My novel geo-coded dataset linking projects involving private investment in public infrastructure to sub-national electoral districts in 16 low- and middle-income countries over 30 years, allows me to undertake a cross-national analysis of how PPPs are distributed. I test three hypotheses, that PPPs are used as distributive goods, that they are targeted at core or swing districts, and that specific features (for example, attributability to the government) of PPPs mean that they are employed according to different political logics. I find support for my hypotheses: PPPs are used as distributive goods, they are more likely to be found in core districts, and these patterns are reversed when projects are less directly ascribable to the government.

  • 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.

  • Do Electoral Rules Matter for Female Representation?, with Paola Profeta.

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.