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Extension of the Franchise and Government Expenditure on Public Goods: Evidence from Nineteenth-Century England

Jonathan Chapman

No 20200045, Working Papers from New York University Abu Dhabi, Department of Social Science

Abstract: This paper develops a model predicting that the extent of the franchise has an inverted-U-relationship with government expenditure on public goods. Extending the right to vote from the rich to the middle class leads to increased spending, but further extensions lead to declines in expenditure. This prediction is tested by constructing a dataset of town council expenditure in Britain between 1867 and 1910. The effect of franchise extension is identified by exploiting regional and temporal variation in the right to vote. The results show strong support for the theoretical prediction, with government spending highest when around 50% of the adult male population was enfranchised.

Pages: 102 pages
Date: 2020-03, Revised 2020-03
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