Political connections, political favoritism and political competition: evidence from the granting of building permits by French mayors

  • Christophe LévêqueEmail author


This article discusses the influence of political connections on public policies implemented at the local level. Using a sample of more than 189,000 local politicians in French cities with more than 3500 inhabitants, I examine whether families of candidates who supported the mayors elected in 2008 obtain more building permits than the families of their political opponents. I find that the former obtain 35% more building permits than the latter between 2008 and 2014. Then, I show that the previous difference declines with political competition and disappears after close elections. My interpretation of those findings underlines two mechanisms. First, political competition disciplines mayors: in cities with weak political competition, mayors may favor their supporters when these supporters or one of their family members wants to obtain building permits, but they refrain from doing so after close elections. Second, in these cities, individuals who want to obtain something in exchange for their support (such as facilitating the acquisition of building permits) may easily forecast who is likely to become the mayor and whom they should support.


Political favoritism Local elections Building permits Mayors Housing supply 

JEL Classification

R31 R50 D73 



I benefited from discussions with Carles Boix, Philippe de Donder and Karine Van der Straten. Emmannuelle Auriole, Filip Kostelka, Julie Lassébie, Justin Leduc, Thierry Madiès, Mohamed Saleh, Albert Solé-Ollé and Emmannuel Thibault also provided me with useful comments. Two anonymous reviewers provided extremely useful advice and helped me improve the manuscript. I also thank Benjamin Vignolles, Benoit Petinat and the SOeS team from the Ministère du Développement Durable, who provided me with data and information. All errors are mine.

Supplementary material

11127_2019_718_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (558 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 558 KB)


  1. Achin, C., & Paoletti, M. (2002). Le “salto” du stigmate. Genre et construction des listes aux municipales de 2001. Politix,. Scholar
  2. Afin, O., Coleman, N. S., Fons-Rosen, C., & Peydro, J. L. (2018). Political connections: Evidence from insider trading around tarp. In: Universitat Pompeu Fabra working paper, (1542).Google Scholar
  3. Aidt, T. S., & Shvets, J. (2012). Distributive politics and electoral incentives: Evidence from seven us state legislatures. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 4(3), 1–29. Scholar
  4. André, P., Mareek, P., & Tapo, F. (2018). Ethnic favoritism: Winner takes all or power sharing? Evidence from school constructions in Benin. THEMA Working Paper.Google Scholar
  5. Bertrand, M., Kramarz, F., Schoar, A., & Thesmar, D. (2018). The cost of political connections. Review of Finance, 22(3), 849–876. Scholar
  6. Blanes, i Vidal J., Draca, M., & Fons-Rosen, C. (2012). Revolving door lobbyists. American Economic Review, 102(7), 3731–48. Scholar
  7. Burgess, R., Jedwab, R., Miguel, E., Morjaria, A., & Padro, i Miquel, G. (2015). The value of democracy: Evidence from road building in kenya. American Economic Review, 105(6), 1817–1851. Scholar
  8. Carozzi, F., & Repetto, L. (2016). Sending the pork home: Birth town bias in transfers to italian municipalities. Journal of Public Economics, 134, 42–52. Scholar
  9. Cattaneo, M. D., Jansson, M., & Ma, X. (2017). Simple local polynomial density estimators. University of Michigan Working Paper.Google Scholar
  10. Clark, G., & Cummins, N. (2014). Surnames and social mobility: England 1230–2012. Human Nature, 25, 517–537. Scholar
  11. Clark, G., Leigh, A., & Pottenger, M. (2017). Immobile Australia: Surnames show strong status persistence, 1870-2017. CESifo Working Paper Series, (6650).Google Scholar
  12. Curto-Grau, M., Solé-Ollé, A., & Sorribas-Navarro, P. (2018). Does electoral competition curb party favoritism? American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 10(4), 378–407. Scholar
  13. Fabre, B., & Sangnier, M. (2017). What motivates french pork: Political career concerns or private connections? Aix-Marseille School of Economics Working Papers, (5).Google Scholar
  14. Faccio, M. (2006). Politically connected firms. American Economic Review, 96(1), 369–386. Scholar
  15. Fafchamps, M., & Labonne, J. (2017). Do politicians’ relatives get better jobs? evidence from municipal elections. The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 33(2), 268–300. Scholar
  16. Fisman, D., Fisman, R . J., Galef, J., Rakesh, K., & Wang, Y. (2012). Estimating the value of connections to vice-president cheney. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 12(3), 1935–1682. Scholar
  17. Fisman, R. (2001). Estimating the value of political connections. American Economic Review, 91(4), 1095–1102. Scholar
  18. Fiva, J. H., & Halse, A. H. (2016). Local favoritism in at-large proportional representation systems. Journal of Public Economics, 143, 15–26. Scholar
  19. Gagliarducci, S., & Manacorda, M. (2016). Politics in the family: Nepotism and the hiring decisions of italian firms. CEP Discussion Paper.Google Scholar
  20. Glaeser, E. L., Gyourko, J., & Saks, R. E. (2005). Why have housing prices gone up? American Economic Review, 95(2), 329–333. Scholar
  21. Golden, M., & Min, B. (2013). Distributive politics around the world. Annual Review of Political Science, 16(1), 73–99. Scholar
  22. Golden, M. A., & Picci, L. (2008). Pork-barrel politics in postwar italy, 1953–94. American Journal of Political Science, 52(2), 268–289. Scholar
  23. Hewstone, M., Rubin, M., & Willis, H. (2002). Intergroup bias. Annual Review of Psychology, 53(1), 575–604. Scholar
  24. Hilber, C. A. L., & Robert-Nicoud, F. (2013). On the origins of land use regulations: Theory and evidence from US metro areas. Journal of Urban Economics, 75, 29–43. Scholar
  25. Hodler, R., & Raschky, P. A. (2014). Regional favoritism. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 129(2), 995–1033. Scholar
  26. Khwaja, A. I., & Mian, A. (2005). Do lenders favor politically connected firms? rent provision in an emerging financial market. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 120(4), 1371–1411. Scholar
  27. Li, H., Meng, L., Wang, Q., & Zhou, L.-A. (2008). Political connections, financing and firm performance: Evidence from chinese private firms. Journal of Development Economics, 87(2), 283–299. Scholar
  28. Ling, L., Zhou, X., Liang, Q., Song, P., & Zeng, H. (2016). Political connections, overinvestments and firm performance: Evidence from chinese listed real estate firms. Finance Research Letters, 18, 328–333. Scholar
  29. Logan, J. R., & Molotch, H. L. (1987). Urban fortunes: The political economy of place. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  30. Luca, G. D., Hodler, R., Raschky, P. A., & Valsecchi, M. (2018). Ethnic favoritism: An axiom of politics? Journal of Development Economics, 132, 115–129. Scholar
  31. Lutes, B. (2015). The non-market competition for land-use: Special interests, influence, and regulation. University of California working paper.Google Scholar
  32. McCrary, J. (2008). Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test. Journal of Econometrics, 142(2), 698–714. Scholar
  33. Poulos, J. (2019). Land lotteries, long-term wealth, and political selection. Public Choice, 178, 217–230. Scholar
  34. Samson Kimenyi, M., & Shughart, W, I. I. (2008). The political economy of constitutional choice: A study of the 2005 kenyan constitutional referendum. Constitutional Political Economy, 21, 1–27. Scholar
  35. Schone, K., Koch, W., & Baumont, C. (2011). Modeling local growth control decisions in a multi-city case: Do spatial interactions and lobbying efforts matter? Public Choice, 154(1–2), 95–117. Scholar
  36. Solé-Ollé, A., & Viladecans-Marsal, E. (2012). Lobbying, political competition, and local land supply: Recent evidence from Spain. Journal of Public Economics, 96(1–2), 10–19. Scholar
  37. Svaleryd, H., & Vlachos, J. (2009). Political rents in a non-corrupt democracy. Journal of Public Economics, 93(3–4), 355–372. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GREThA. Université de BordeauxBordeauxFrance

Personalised recommendations