Jonas Klarin defends his thesis Empirical Essays in Public and Political Economics

2021-02-08

Jonas Klarin defends his thesis Empirical Essays in Public and Political Economics on Friday 12th of February at 10:15 in Lecture Hall 2 at Ekonomikum, Kyrkogårdsgatan 10, Uppsala. Please note that there will be a limited number of seats as the defence is a digital event.

Jonas Klarin

The dissertation deals with the impact of political institutions on public finances. It first shows that municipal break-ups can lead to both reduced and increased costs depending on initial conditions. It then shows that if the central government increases intergovernmental grants to municipalities in election years, then spending increases on things that voters can easily observe, such as roads and other infrastructure. Finally, the dissertation shows that the length of politicians’ term of office affects their incentives to either make cost savings or provide more public goods and services at the same cost level, depending on party affiliation.

Discussant is Associate Professor Francesco Sobbrio, Luiss University and the grading committee members are Assistant Professor Åsa Hansson, Department of Economics, Lund University, Assistant Professor Che-Yuan Liang, Department of Economics/ Institute for Housing and Urban Research (IBF), Uppsala University and Professor John Östh, Department of Social and Economic Geography, Uppsala University.

Advisors are Professor Eva Mörk, Department of Economics, Uppsala University and Assistant Professor Luca Repetto, Department of Economics, Uppsala University.

Abstract 

Essay I: This paper proposes a novel approach to the issue of size, cost-efficiency and economies of scale by focusing on the break-up of municipalities. Municipal break-ups are an understudied phenomenon that nevertheless has been recurrent not only in parts of eastern Europe, but also in Spain and Sweden. Analyzing seven voluntary break-ups of Swedish municipalities, we estimate the effects of municipal splits on municipal total costs as well as administrative costs. To predict what would have happened had the splits not taken place, we apply the matrix completion method with nuclear norm minimization. Our results do not support the standard view, i.e. that smaller municipalities imply higher per capita costs. Instead, we find that costs increase in some municipalities, are unaffected in others and decrease elsewhere. The findings point to the complex nature of territorial reforms, the difficulty in drawing general conclusions of such, and hence, the perils of expecting them to have uniform outcomes.

Essay II: I test for the presence of election cycles within the budget composition in Swedish municipalities. I find that local governments increase expenditures that are visible to voters in election years. Other expenditures do not decrease, and as a consequence total spending increases. Budget balance is achieved by an increase in intergovernmental grants. I also find suggestive evidence that municipalities with the same political affiliation as the ruling central government receive more grants and spend more on visible expenditures.

Essay III: This paper shows that the term length for politicians affects public finances. Specifically, I show that the staggered extension of term lengths for U.S. governors from two to four years decrease yearly expenditures and revenues by 6 percent. Further, I show that this effect comes from stronger re-election incentives to a longer and thus more valuable term. The incentive effect is isolated from the potential effect of worsened candidate selection by exploiting that voters in general both approve longer terms and elect the last two-year term governor in the same election. In addition, I find that longer terms cause republican governors to exert effort to reduce the size of government without decreasing the level of public goods, while democratic governors instead increase the level of public goods without increasing government spending and revenues. My findings highlight the importance of constructing an institutional framework that gives politicians strong incentives to perform.

Download the thesis from Diva here

Read more about Jonas and his research here