Isolated Capital Cities, Accountability and Corruption: Evidence from US States

Filipe R. Campante, Quoc-Anh Do
2012 Social Science Research Network  
We show that isolated capital cities are robustly associated with greater levels of corruption across US states, in line with the view that this isolation reduces accountability. We then provide direct evidence that the spatial distribution of population relative to the capital affects different accountability mechanisms: newspapers cover state politics more when readers are closer to the capital, voters who live far from the capital are less knowledgeable and interested in state politics, and
more » ... tate politics, and they turn out less in state elections. We also find that isolated capitals are associated with more money in state-level campaigns, and worse public good provision. (JEL D72, D73, H41, H83, K42, R23) Corruption is widely seen as a major problem, in developing and developed countries alike, and much has been written on its determinants and correlates. This paper pursues the first systematic investigation of a hitherto underappreciated element in this story: the spatial distribution of the population in a given polity of interest, relative to the seat of political power. This spatial distribution might affect the incentives and opportunities for public officials to misuse their office for private gain. In particular, it may affect the degree of accountability, as has long been noted in the particular context of US state politics. For instance, Wilson's (1966) seminal contribution argued that state-level politics were particularly prone to corruption because state capitals are often far from the major metropolitan centers, and thus face a lower level of scrutiny by citizens and by the media: these isolated capitals have "small-city newspapers, few (and weak) * ). We are grateful to three anonymous referees for many helpful suggestions. We also thank
doi:10.2139/ssrn.2188588 fatcat:gnlfii3jtjfvpjgebz335bvu3y