Projects

Development

Politics of territorial development

“Inclusive” distribution as electoral strategy. The politics of Turkish central government spending under AK Party rule. With M. Cammett (Harvard University), E. Sergenti (World Bank).

Most studies of distributive politics assume that politicians attempt to win support by strategic spending. Even if this is the central tendency, are some expenditure lines disbursed with less apparent favoritism towards particular regions? We suggest that governments intentionally spare some sectors from selective geographical targeting to convey the appearance of programmatic spending, while safeguarding others to reward supporters or punish opponents. Parties may find it politically advantageous to reserve some sectors for more “inclusive” spending to showcase their governance credentials, especially in policy areas that have garnered high public dissatisfaction and where voters can directly verify if promises have been kept. We analyze central government spending on all budget categories in Turkey’s 81 provinces for 2003-2015, a period when the ruling AK Party gained and consolidated power. Using fixed-effects and instrumental-variable Tobit estimators, we demonstrate that health spending has apparently become more inclusive, while other expenditures reward core strongholds.

National elections, sub-national development: The politics of Turkey’s provincial economic growth under AKP rule.

Despite a large body of work on the role of institutions for local and regional development, economic geographers and regional scholars have, in the last decades, frequently overlooked the role of politics and, in particular, that of national political economies. Drawing on literature in economics and political science, the paper argues that studying national political dynamics is still key to understand the cumulative process of uneven regional development. Using data from Turkey over the period 2004-2016, the paper shows how national electoral politics and government actions have had a significant effect on provincial economic growth patterns. The effect is substantive and increases in election years. Results also suggest that the central government has influenced sub-national development trajectories in different ways, including boosting the construction sector and expanding public employment.

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.

Discontent

Geographies of political discontent

The long shadow of local decline: Birthplace economic conditions, political attitudes, and individual long-term economic outcomes in the UK. With N. Lee (LSE) and A. McNeil (LSE).

Despite the prevalent focus upon how current contextual economic conditions influence life outcomes and political attitudes of individuals, there is less evidence on how local economic conditions at birth shape individual outcomes and political attitudes over the long-term. Does growing up in an economically declining place matter for life outcomes? This paper links data from English and Welsh respondents of a large-scale household survey, the British Household Panel Survey, with historic localised data on unemployment to consider the impact of unemployment at birth on present-day individual wages and political attitudes. Our results, which control for the spatial sorting of people across places, show that being born into a high-unemployment Local Authority has a significant, long-term impact on individual’s economic outcomes, decreasing earnings in adulthood. Even accounting for individual economic outcomes, being born into a local authority of high unemployment makes individuals more left-wing, but also less culturally tolerant. These results underline the importance of place-based policy solutions able to address geographically-concentrated economic disadvantage.

Progressive cities: Urban-rural polarisation of progressive values and economic development around the world. With N. Lee (LSE), J. Stein (Arctic University of Norway) and J. Terrero-Davila (LSE).

The polarisation of social and political attitudes between big cities and their hinterlands has become one of the major fault lines in western democracies. Yet little is known on whether the growing divide between urban and rural areas mapped across the North Atlantic is also prevalent around other parts of the world. Modernisation theory suggests that socio-economic development may lead to a spread of liberal, post-materialist values. But there is little evidence on the role of cities in this process. Has the urban-rural split become a great global social divider? And does this gap depend on the economic development of a country? We draw on a large cross-sectional dataset covering 65 countries from around the world. We show how there are marked and significant differences across all countries, and especially across richer ones. While these differences are explained in large part by the social and demographic characteristics of respondents, place of residence remain a significant predictor of individual attitudes even after controlling for observable compositional effects

Great or grim? The diverging effect of the Brexit vote on Britain’s economic houselhold expectations and spending intentions. With Z. Wei (University of Cambridge), P. Kuang (Birmingham University) and Y. Yao (Birmingham University).

Changes in perceptions and expectations of British households are a key to understand the short- and medium-term impact of the Brexit vote on the UK economy. Leveraging data from British Election Study and the Bank of England NMG surveys, the paper studies if, and how, the Brexit vote outcomes have influenced British households’ view on the economy and their spending intentions. We find the Brexit vote has led to a sharp and long-lasting divergence in the views on the economy between Leave and Remain voters, as Remain voters have dramatically become more pessimistic since the vote. Also, in the wake of the Brexit election results, Remainers have become less willing to spend on major purchases as well as daily necessities compared to their counterparts.

Drifting apart? Urban density and the evolution of political disenchantment across 30 European countries. With M. Kenny (University of Cambridge).

We use the European Social Survey dataset, covering more than 200.000 respondents over the period 2002 to 2018, to present new evidence on the link between place of residence and differences in socio-political attitudes between urban and rural residents across 30 European countries. We complement recent research, and show that the strong and significant differences between the populations in these different settings have grown after the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. We also provide new comparative cross-country evidence from across selected countries. While different countries show specific patterns, on average, we show, rural dwellers express stronger levels of dissatisfaction with democracy and with public health service provision, lower trust in the political system, and less optimist attitudes towards migration and the EU.

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

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.

Policy delivery

Governance of policy delivery at the local level

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.

‘Gone with the wind’. Organised crime and the geography of wind and solar farms in Italy. With A. Romarri (University of Barcelona).

The transition to low-carbon energy sources is considered as one of the key policies to tackle climate change and, to this aim, many European governments have been supporting the transition to renewable energy through subsidies. Growing anecdotal evidence suggests that the generosity of incentives has attracted the interests of corrupt politicians and criminal organisations, as the wind energy sector offer attractive opportunities for mafia to benefit from generous national and EU grant and tax subsidies and to launder illegal money via legal business structures. Yet, no academic research has systematically explored the link between organised crime and the renewable energy sector at the local level. Our project aims to fill this gap. We aim to combine, in a mixed-method approach, the econometric analysis of innovative GIS data on the geo-location of wind farms across Italy and on the local presence of mafia groups with fieldwork and in-depth interviews.