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The impact of pork-barrel capital funding in schools: Evidence from participatory budgeting in NYC

Michah W. Rothbart, David J. Schwegman, Iuliia Shybalkina

Public Budgeting & Finance, December 2021

Michah Rothbart

Michah W. Rothbart

Pork-barrel spending is a form of public spending controlled by individual legislators and primarily serving a local interest. In this paper, we investigate the impact of a type of pork, council member capital discretionary education spending voted upon in a participatory budgeting (PB) process, on school budgets and performance in New York City. Exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in discretionary spending induced by the PB elections, we find winning a PB election increases school pork appropriations. However, we find no evidence these transfers from council members improve fiscal and performance outcomes. Further, pork may interfere with school budgeting.