Davide Luca





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 the logic driving government distribution is similar across different goods. This paper relaxes this assumption. It explores patterns of central government spending on distinct social and economic sectors in Turkey from 2003 through 2014, when the ruling Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), gained and consolidated its hold on power. Fixed-effects and instrumental variable results show how the central government has systematically exploited expenditures on different social and economic sectors for strategic objectives, e.g. by targeting highly excludable goods to retain support in core AKP strongholds and non-excludable, non-reversible goods to provinces where the electoral race is closer. At the same time, the “big losers” across all sectors are the strongholds of the main opposition, secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP).


Picking winners at the ballot box: party politics and local economic growth in post-2002 Turkey. ERF working paper link.


There is significant literature on the adverse effects of political and social polarization on public policies and development outcomes. Yet, the research specifically exploring whether socio-political cleavages may affect subnational economic growth has been significantly scarcer. The current project proposal aims at filling this gap. It asks: in polities characterized by deep political polarization and where businesses are more reliant on state intervention – such as most countries in the Middle East and North Africa region –, do votes for the incumbent government ‘buy’ faster local economic growth, at the expenses of opposition constituencies? We test such question on the 81 provinces of Turkey over 2004-2014. New instrumental variable estimates suggest that voting for the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) can lead to up to two percentage points of faster per-capita yearly GDP growth rate.


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. Concomitantly with the recent waves of refugees reaching the Southern shores of Europe, Italian Counts have started uncovering plausible cases of mafia infiltration in the set-up and management of asylum seekers’ reception centers, which are publicly funded. In Hosting to skim: Organized crime and the reception of asylum seekers (with Paola Proietti, Gran Sasso Science Institute), we ask the following questions: is there a causal link between mafia presence and the amount of asylum seekers hosted across Italian municipalities? The project is in its preliminary stage and ultimately aims to identify what are the forms of reception centers’ management most insulated against mafia infiltration.


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 Data Envelopment Analysis. We then exploit fuzzy Regression Discontinuity Design and different Matching 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.