Unfair play: the politics of Turkey's social spending under AKP rule. With M. Cammett (Harvard University), E. Sergenti (World Bank).
Most studies in the literature on distributive politics assume that politicians always attempt to win support by strategically targeting goods. We relax this assumption, probing the conditions under which parties may exploit universal, programmatic distribution as a political strategy. We analyze patterns of central government spending in Turkey from 2004 through 2014, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) gained and consolidated its power. In line with existing theories, we show that the party aimed to cement its strongholds with higher amounts of expenditure, to channel marginal constituencies with non-excludable, irreversible goods, and to punish the main opposition party across most lines of spending. At the same time, we provide robust evidence of how the party shielded some sectors from strategic targeting, showcasing them as exemplars of their technocratic prowess and good governance credentials.
Picking winners at the ballot box: party politics and local economic growth in post-2002 Turkey. ERF working paper link.
While there is systematic evidence of how governments targets policy outputs for strategic electoral reasons, a limited amount of studies has assessed whether these distortions are consequential for local economic growth. Using data from Turkey over the period 2004-2013, the current paper measures the effect of voting for the national incumbent party on subnational economic performance. New instrumental variable estimates suggest that provinces with significant support for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) but where the electoral race was nevertheless intense have experienced faster per-capita GVA and employment growth rates. The effect is economically substantive and increases in election years. Results also provide evidence that the government has affected growth through the selective provision of state goods.
Hosting to skim. Organized crime on the reception of asylum seekers and refugees in Italy. With P. Proietti (GSSI).
Growing scholarly attention is exploring the effects of organized crime on public policies. This paper draws on the case of Italy, and investigates the shadow impact of organized crime in influencing the geography of asylum seekers' reception centers, which are publicly funded. We gather data on the location of reception centers and on the presence of mafia across Italian municipalities. We exploit exogenous variation at municipal level to instrument mafia intensity, and provide evidence of how the presence of mafia affects both the likelihood of hosting a reception center and the number of asylum seekers hosted. We then assemble an innovative dataset on public procurement for the set–up and management of reception centers, which are publicly funded but contracted to third actors. Statistical evidence and in–depth expert interviews suggest that the presence of organized crime is correlated to the use of direct, potentially less transparent procurement procedures over open calls.
Stronger together? Estimating the causal effect of inter-municipal cooperation on the efficiency of small Italian municipalities. With F. Modrego (GSSI). Cambridge BIPP working paper link.
Promoting better governance arrangements and coordination among local governments is seen as one of the solutions to overcome the challenge of providing services to citizens under limited resources. While the theoretical literature on the positive effects of cooperation is substantial, the empirical literature measuring the impacts of inter-municipal cooperation on local governments’ efficiency is scarce and inconclusive. In this paper we investigate the experience of Italy’s Municipal Unions (unioni di comuni). We develop a novel measure of technical efficiency by means of Robust Data Envelopment Analysis. We then exploit Matching and Fuzzy-RDD estimators to explore whether Unions have any impacts on the administrative efficiency of member municipalities. We do not find any significant effect.
Paving the way: highway construction and support for democratic deconsolidation in contemporary Turkey. With M. Cammett (Harvard University), A. Filiztekin (Özyeğin University).
After an unexpected electoral victory in the 2002 elections, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has enjoyed an electoral majority ever since. The party’s initial success is relatively easy to explain. Yet, the question of how it has managed to transform the country into a fully-fledged competitive authoritarian regime under a strong and continuous popular backing presents a puzzle to scholars. Drawing on recent work on the rise of Nazi Germany, we hypothesize that public works and the provision of state goods may have been effective in boosting popular electoral backing, helping to entrench the incumbents. The paper exploits GIS analysis to map the recent expansion of the highway network, one of the flagship projects carried out during the AKP incumbency. We then analyse if distance to new roads increased district-level electoral support for the incumbents, in a period when they consolidated their hold on power and dismantled checks on their rule. Results will contribute to the broader literature on democratic deconsolidation. If the erosion of democratic institutions is a wide-ranging process that goes beyond redistribution our argument is that, to achieve such deep-reaching goals, illiberal leaders may first need to build strong societal support, and distributive politics may play a key role in that.
Testing the link between migrants' spatial concentration and poverty: new micro-geographical evidence from the Netherlands. With M.C. Magante (GSSI), A. Faggian (GSSI).
While there is growing evidence of how migrants across the EU are generally more likely to be at risk of poverty, fewer studies have been conducted to assess the geographical dimension of such link. In this paper we aim to contribute filling this gap. We explore the extent to which migrants’ spatial concentration is linked to poverty and inequality in the Netherlands. We exploit novel data at high spatial resolution across five Dutch main cities to test whether neighbourhoods with a higher concentration of migrants show higher levels of poverty compared to areas mostly inhabited by natives. Results confirm how migrant’s ‘hotspots’ show significantly higher levels of poverty. Such link is stronger outside of the capital city, and is heterogeneous across ethnic groups.