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

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-170
Number of pages23
JournalPublic Budgeting and Finance
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
In NYC, capital projects “involve the construction, reconstruction, acquisition, or installation of a physical public improvement with a value of $35,000 or more and a useful life of at least five years” (NYC IBO, 2013 ). The DOE's capital budget includes three categories of projects. The first are capacity projects, which create new school facilities. The second are mandated projects required by laws. The third are capital investments. Capital investments include (1) critical repair needs projects from the Capital Improvement Program as determined by the Building Condition Assessment Survey, (2) enhancement projects, and (3) projects funded by the 51 CMs and/or five borough presidents called Resolution A (Reso‐A) (NYC SCA, 2020 ). CM Reso‐A funding for education comprised 3.8% of the FY 18 SCA Capital Plan ($134 million of $3.6 billion) (NYC SCA, 2020 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Public Financial Publications, Inc.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Public Administration


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