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Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions

Alberto Alesina, Reza Baqir and William Easterly ()

No 6009, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: We present a model that links heterogeneity of preferences across ethnic groups in a city to the amount and type of public good the city supplies. We test the implications of the model with three related datasets: US cities, US metropolitan areas, and US urban counties. Results show that productive public goods -- education, roads, libraries, sewers and trash pickup -- in US cities (metro areas/urban counties) are inversely related to the city's (metro area's/county's) ethnic fragmentation, even after controlling for other socioeconomic and demographic determinants. Ethnic fragmentation is negatively related to the share of local spending on welfare. The results are mainly driven by observations in which majority whites are reacting to varying sizes of minority groups. We conclude that ethnic conflict is an important determinant of local public finances.

Date: 1997-04
Note: PE
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Published as Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods And Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284, November.

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