State Borders and Public Health

29 February 2024, Version 2
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


I contribute to the debates on optimal jurisdiction size and federalism through a quasi-natural experiment in the context of US food safety. State borders create fissures in information networks and authority hierarchies. Accordingly, I use the varying extent to which Census-designated metro area populations straddle state borders as the nature-assigned variable; and I show that these fissures prolong foodborne illness outbreaks only in the case of chemically-induced outbreaks---the swiftest category of outbreak. I conclude that policy areas requiring a quick response will tend to benefit from larger jurisdictions but that the benefits can largely be derived by centralizing information without centralizing control.


intergovernmental relations
public health
food safety
natural experiment
foodborne illness


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