Demographic Characteristics and the Public Bundle

David M. Cutler, Douglas W. Elmendorf, Richard J. Zeckhauser

NBER Working Paper No. 4283
Issued in February 1993
NBER Program(s):   PE   AG

This paper explores the relationship between the demographic characteristics of a community and the quantities of goods and services provided by its government We consider three models of public spending: a traditional "selfish" public choice model in which individuals care only about themselves, a "community preference" model in which an individual's preferred spending depends on the characteristics of his or her community. and a sorting process through which individuals choose communities according to their tastes for public spending. To evaluate these models of spending, we examine how county and state spending in the United States is affected by the age and racial composition, and the total size of a jurisdiction. The estimated effects of demographic characteristics in the state equations are strikingly different from the estimated effects in the county equations, apparently because a jurisdiction's spending is affected differently by its own demographic characteristics and by the characteristics of the surrounding area.

download in pdf format
   (1528 K)

email paper

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

This paper is available as PDF (1528 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w4283


  • Public Finance/Finances Publiques, vol. 48 (supp.), 1993, pp. 178-198
  • Cutler, David M & Elmendorf, Douglas W & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1993. "Demographic Characteristics and the Public Bundle," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 48(Supplemen), pages 178-98. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Poterba w5677 Demographic Structure and the Political Economy of Public Education
Alesina, Glaeser, and Sacerdote w8524 Why Doesn't the US Have a European-Style Welfare System?
Alesina and La Ferrara w10313 Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance
Barro w2588 Government Spending in a Simple Model of Endogenous Growth
Cutler, Elmendorf, and Zeckhauser w6196 Restraining the Leviathan: Property Tax Limitation in Massachusetts
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us