Legislature size and welfare: evidence from Brazil

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2019
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What is the effect of legislature size on public service provision? While the literature relates legislature size to representation and government expenditure, its implications for welfare remain understudied. In this paper, we investigate the effects of legislature size on welfare, exploiting exogenous changes in city-council size in Brazil between 2005 and 2008. We show that adding a legislator improves education and health care. However, the results prove true for the services that are believed to be highly salient to voters and are easiest to claim credit for. In this sense, education quality and preventive health care remain unaffected while primary school enrollment and infant mortality significantly improve. To investigate the mechanism, we surveyed former councilors and analyzed 346,553 bills proposed by municipalities in the period. This analysis largely corroborates our findings, showing that politicians prefer to provide private and local public goods. This paper has implications for the design of legislative institutions.


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