Sending the pork home: Birth town bias in transfers to Italian municipalities
Journal of Public Economics, 2016
We ask whether the birthplaces of Italian members of Parliament are favoured in the allocation of central government transfers. Using a panel of municipalities for the years between 1994 and 2006, we find that municipal governments of legislators’ birth towns receive larger transfers per capita. Exploiting variation in birthplaces induced by parliamentary turnover for estimation, we find that this effect is driven by legislators who were born in a town outside their district of election. As a result, we argue that our findings cannot be a consequence of re-election incentives, the usual motivation for pork-barrel policies in the literature. Rather, politicians may be pursuing other personal motives. In line with this hypothesis, we find that the birth town bias essentially disappears when legislative elections are near. We explore several possible mechanisms behind our results by matching parliamentarians to a detailed dataset on local level administrators.