American Government and Politics

Party of the Purse: The Effect of Legislator Partisanship on Congressional District Funding



Legislators’ pursuit of federal funding for their home districts represents a core element of congressional representation. Distributive politics is often characterized as less partisan than other aspects of congressional behavior, but it is unclear how legislator party affiliation affects district spending. I use a regression discontinuity design, leveraging close congressional elections, to examine whether Democratic and Republican MCs pursue different magnitudes and types of distributive benefits. Focusing on the years following a close election, I find that districts where Republicans narrowly win tend to receive more federal funding than districts where Democrats narrowly win. However, the effect of MC partisanship on district spending is not immediate – a distinguishable effect emerges only when the window of observation is expanded from one congress to two congresses following a close election. Finally, I separate spending by policy area and find that the general Republican funding advantage stems from transportation and agriculture spending.


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