Working papers

Subsumes: The franchise, taxes, and public goods: the political economy of infrastructure investment in nineteenth-century England.)

Many theories of democratization suggest that extending the right to vote will lead to increased government expenditure (e.g. Meltzer and Richard, 1981; Lizzeri and Persico, 2004; Acemoglu and Robinson, 2000). However, these models frequently assume that government can engage in transfer expenditure, which is often not true for local governments. This paper presents a model in which government expenditure is limited to the provision of public goods. The model predicts that the poor and the rich desire lower public goods expenditure than the middle class: the rich because of the relatively high tax burden, and the poor because of a high marginal utility of consumption. Consequently extensions of the franchise to the poor can be associated with declines in government expenditure on public goods. This prediction is tested using a new dataset of local government financial accounts in England between 1867 and 1900, which captures government expenditure on key infrastructure projects that are not included in many studies of national democratic reform. The empirical analysis, by exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in the extent of the franchise, shows strong support for the theoretical prediction: expenditure increased following relatively small extensions of the franchise, but fell following extensions of the franchise beyond around 50% of the adult male population.

Abstract: It is well-recognized that both improved nutrition and sanitation infrastructure are important contributors to mortality decline. However the relative importance of the two factors is difficult to quantify, since most studies are limited to testing the effects of specific sanitary improvements. This paper uses new historical data regarding total investment in urban infrastructure, measured using the outstanding loan stock, to estimate the extent to which the mortality decline in England and Wales between 1861 and 1900 can be attributed to government investment. Fixed effects regressions indicate that infrastructure investment explains approximately 22-25% of the decline in mortality between 1861 and 1900, once time trends are accounted for. Since these specifications may not fully account for the endogoneity between investment and mortality, I perform additional specifications using lagged investment as an instrument for current investment. These estimates suggest that government investment was the major contributor to mortality decline, explaining up to 60% of the reduction in total urban mortality between 1861 and 1900 and 88% between 1861 and 1890. Additional results indicate that investment in urban infrastructure led to declines in mortality from both waterborne and airborne diseases.

Several theories have argued that democratic reform will lead to higher government spending. However, these theories have generally focused on expenditure on redistribution rather than expenditure on public goods. This paper presents a model predicting that democratization leads to lower government expenditure on infrastructure if the median pre-reform voter is middle class. This prediction is tested using a new panel dataset of town council infrastructure spending and revenue in nineteenth-century Britain. An 1894 national reform implementing a system of ``one-household-one-vote'' and the secret ballot is used as the treatment event in a difference-in-difference analysis. The results show that democratic reform slowed the growth of town council investment in public goods, including water supply and other public infrastructure. In line with the theoretical prediction, this negative effect was strongest when democratic reform transferred power from the middle class to the poor.

Work in progress

Determinants of sanitation infrastructure in England and Wales 1848--1900.

Costing others to show you care: Reciprocity under incomplete information, with Matthew Chao.

The impact of inequality on support for franchise extension: evidence from Britain's Age of Reform.

The effect of the 1984/85 British miners' strikes on social cooperation: there's no such thing as society anymore?, with Samantha Myers.

Econographics, with Colin Camerer, Mark Dean, Pietro Ortoleva and Erik Snowberg.

Econographics and Political Behavior, with Colin Camerer, Pietro Ortoleva and Erik Snowberg.


Book Review of The River Pollution Dilemma in Victorian England: Nuisance Law Versus Economic E.fficiency. By Leslie Rosenthal. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014. Australian Economic History Review, November 2015.

Book Review of The Rise of a Victorian Ironopolis: Middlesbrough and Regional Industrialization. By Minoru Yasumoto. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2011. Published in the Journal of Economic History, September 2013.

An economic impact assessment of the CCPMO with Gavan Conlon and Patrice Muller (London: London Economics, 2008).

Jonathan Chapman,
Feb 2, 2017, 6:30 AM
Jonathan Chapman,
Sep 20, 2016, 4:34 AM
Jonathan Chapman,
Feb 2, 2017, 6:33 AM