Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Business and Economics



First Advisor

Dr. John Garen


This dissertation focuses on how distributive politics influences the geographic allocation of federal grants to state and local governments. A secondary focus is the role of social trust in the growth of government. In the first essay, I test the degree to which the earmark ban of 2011 prevented legislators from directing federal competitive grants to their home congressional districts and whether earmarking distorted equality in the distribution of federal grants across demographic groups. I find that earmarking skewed the distribution of federal grants toward wealthy congressional districts and away from poor congressional districts. This is a groundbreaking finding, considering that no literature has addressed the impact of earmarking on economic inequality. In the second essay, I estimate the returns to lobbying for local governments in terms of federal earmarked grants, and I find that local governments in counties with higher levels of income per capita were more likely to engage in lobbying. I also find evidence of a causal link between lobbying and federal earmarks to local governments. Given that local governments in wealthy areas tend to have larger tax bases, which allows them to more easily fund public infrastructure projects, my findings imply that lobbying and earmarking hampered the ability of federal grant programs to promote equality in the distribution of federal funds. The third essay utilizes time series econometrics to examine the relationship between government regulation, spending, interest group activity, and social trust in government.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)