Davide Luca





Unfair play: the politics of Turkey's social spending under AKP rule. With M. Cammett (Harvard University), E. Sergenti (World Bank).


Most studies in the literature on distributive politics assume that politicians always attempt to win support by strategically targeting goods. We relax this assumption, probing the conditions under which parties may exploit universal, programmatic distribution as a political strategy. We analyze patterns of central government spending in Turkey from 2004 through 2014, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) gained and consolidated its power. In line with existing theories, we show that the party aimed to cement its strongholds with higher amounts of expenditure, to channel marginal constituencies with non-excludable, irreversible goods, and to punish the main opposition party across most lines of spending. At the same time, we provide robust evidence of how the party shielded some sectors from strategic targeting, showcasing them as exemplars of their technocratic prowess and good governance credentials.


Bringing politics (back) into Economic Geography. National electoral dynamics and local economic growth in Turkey.


Despite a large body of work on the role of institutions for local and regional development, economic geographers have frequently overlooked the role of politics. The paper aims to fill this gap, by arguing that studying political dynamics is key to understand the cumulative process of uneven regional development. Using data from Turkey over the period 2004-2013, the paper shows how electoral politics and government actions have had a significant effect on local economic growth patterns. The effect is substantive and increases in election years. Results also suggest that the government has influenced local development trajectories through the selective provision of state goods and regulation.


Hosting to skim. Organized crime on the reception of asylum seekers in Italy. With P. Proietti (GSSI).


Growing scholarly attention is exploring the effects of organized crime on public policies. This paper draws on the case of Italy, and investigates the shadow impact of organized crime in influencing the geography of asylum seekers' reception centers, which are publicly funded. We gather data on the location of reception centers and on the presence of mafia across Italian municipalities. We exploit exogenous variation at municipal level to instrument mafia intensity, and provide evidence of how the presence of mafia affects both the likelihood of hosting a reception center and the number of asylum seekers hosted. We then assemble an innovative dataset on public procurement for the set–up and management of reception centers, which are publicly funded but contracted to third actors. Statistical evidence and in–depth expert interviews suggest that the presence of organized crime is correlated to the use of direct, potentially less transparent procurement procedures over open calls.


Stronger together? Estimating the causal effect of inter-municipal cooperation on the efficiency of small Italian municipalities. With F. Modrego (GSSI). Cambridge BIPP working paper link.


Promoting better governance arrangements and coordination among local governments is seen as one of the solutions to overcome the challenge of providing services to citizens under limited resources. While the theoretical literature on the positive effects of cooperation is substantial, the empirical literature measuring the impacts of inter-municipal cooperation on local governments’ efficiency is scarce and inconclusive. In this paper we investigate the experience of Italy’s Municipal Unions (unioni di comuni). We develop a novel measure of technical efficiency by means of Robust Data Envelopment Analysis. We then exploit Matching and Fuzzy-RDD estimators to explore whether Unions have any impacts on the administrative efficiency of member municipalities. We do not find any significant effect.


The urban-rural divide in European politics. Evidence from people’s attitudes across 30 countries. With M. Kenny (Cambridge).


Despite growing concerns about increasing divisions between urban and rural Europe, no research has explored whether there is a systematic urban-rural divide in political and socioeconomic attitudes across the European continent. This paper aims to fill this gap. Drawing on individual-level data from the European Social Surveys, it explores the links between place of residence and individual attitudes on a broad range of issues. Results show how there are strong differences on the majority of issues. Such geographical divide is not binary but a continuum, running from inner cities to metropolitan suburbs, towns, and the countryside. The differences are significant, robust to controlling for a host of sociodemographic individual characteristics, and consistent across most issues.


Paving the way: highway construction and support for democratic deconsolidation in contemporary Turkey. With M. Cammett (Harvard University), A. Filiztekin (Özyeğin University).


After an unexpected electoral victory in the 2002 elections, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has enjoyed an electoral majority ever since. The party’s initial success is relatively easy to explain. Yet, the question of how it has managed to transform the country into a fully-fledged competitive authoritarian regime under a strong and continuous popular backing presents a puzzle to scholars. Drawing on recent work on the rise of Nazi Germany, we hypothesize that public works and the provision of state goods may have been effective in boosting popular electoral backing, helping to entrench the incumbents. The paper exploits GIS analysis to map the recent expansion of the highway network, one of the flagship projects carried out during the AKP incumbency. We then analyse if distance to new roads increased district-level electoral support for the incumbents, in a period when they consolidated their hold on power and dismantled checks on their rule. Results will contribute to the broader literature on democratic deconsolidation. If the erosion of democratic institutions is a wide-ranging process that goes beyond redistribution our argument is that, to achieve such deep-reaching goals, illiberal leaders may first need to build strong societal support, and distributive politics may play a key role in that.


Testing the link between migrants' spatial concentration and poverty: new micro-geographical evidence from the Netherlands. With M.C. Magante (GSSI), A. Lumley-Sapanski (GSSI).


While there is growing evidence of how migrants across the EU are generally more likely to be at risk of poverty, fewer studies have been conducted to assess the current geographical dimension of such link. In this paper we aim to contribute to filling this gap. We explore the extent to which migrants’ spatial concentration is linked to neighborhood poverty in the Netherlands and flesh out potential determinants of such link. We exploit novel census data at high spatial resolution across five Dutch main cities to uncover that neighborhoods with a higher concentration of migrants show significantly higher levels of poverty compared to areas mostly inhabited by natives. Such link is heterogenous across ethnic groups, and strongly dependent on the level of participation into labor markets and household characteristics.