Researcher ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4489-183X

Graduation Year

2022

Date of Submission

4-2022

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Economics

Reader 1

Jeffrey Flory

Reader 2

Angela Vossmeyer

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Adhitya Venkatraman

Abstract

In line with popular criticisms of Congressional pork barrel spending, I find that that individual representatives do wield significant influence in securing government contracts for their districts. Using federal contract data organized at the congressional district level from FY 2001 – FY 2021, I estimate how individual members of the House of Representatives affect funding outcomes. My identification strategy leverages changes in contract funding that occur during exogenous vacancies occurring in the middle of a term. By comparing contract funding outcomes during vacant quarters to non-vacant quarters, I estimate the amount of individual influence exercised by representatives.

During vacant quarters, districts receive 6.68% less funding than they do in non-vacant quarters, suggesting that individual representatives play a significant role in securing contracts for their districts. These effects are stronger in districts that have a high level of contracting activity, where vacancies are correlated with a 15.39% decrease in funding. These results are robust to several controls, including the party in control of the House of Representatives and the vacant representative’s party. Thus, the evidence suggests that individual influence persists across party lines.

My findings imply that efforts to reduce pork barrel spending should focus on reducing the electoral benefits that individual representatives enjoy from funneling money to their districts. Public cost-benefit analyses for contracts might increase public scrutiny of inefficient projects and disincentivize representatives from leveraging excessive pork barrel spending to increase their odds of reelection.

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