NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions

Alberto Alesina, Reza Baqir, William Easterly

NBER Working Paper No. 6009
Issued in April 1997
NBER Program(s):   PE

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.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6009

Published: 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. citation courtesy of

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