Direct Democracy and Public Employees

Source: John G. Matsusaka, American Economic Review, Vol. 99, No. 5, December 2009
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From the abstract:
In the public sector, employment may be inefficiently high because of patronage, and wages may be inefficiently high because of public employee interest groups. This paper explores whether the initiative process, a direct democracy institution of growing importance, ameliorates these political economy problems. In a sample of 650+ cities, I find that when public employees cannot bargain collectively and patronage could be a problem, initiatives appear to cut employment but not wages. When public employees bargain collectively, driving up wages, the initiative appears to cut wages but not employment. The employment-cutting result is robust; the wage-cutting result survives some but not all robustness tests.

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