Working Paper

The Political Geography of Government Projects: Evidence from +/- 40,000 Projects in Ghana

Date Published

Jun 30, 2018


Nahomi Ichino, Martin Williams, Erik Wibbels



Ichino, Nahomi, Martin Williams, and Erik Wibbels. 2018. The Political Geography of Government Projects: Evidence from +/- 40,000 Projects in Ghana. AidData Working Paper #58. Williamsburg, VA: AidData at William & Mary.


A large body of work on distributive politics emphasizes that incumbents strategically target spending at voters to achieve electoral ends, with important debates about whether politicians target swing or core voters. Nearly all such work, however, ignores the fact that voters are clustered in space and that much government spending is on club goods that are inherently geographic. These goods, such as schools or clinics, serve communities and cannot be targeted at individual voters; such goods also have spatial externalities because neighboring communities can use them. Our paper has three aims. First, we outline the analytical challenges inherent in taking project locations and their corresponding spatial externalities seriously. Second, we describe some of the empirical challenges associated with attaining project location data, mapping it, combining it with relevant covariates at the appropriate scale and modeling it. Third, we introduce a new dataset that combines over 40,000 projects in Ghana’s districts with fine-grained census tract and polling booth data. To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest data set of its kind. In preliminary analysis of a modest portion of the data, we estimate the role of need, partisanship and spatial externalities in shaping which communities receive government projects.

Funding: This research was supported by AidData at the College of William and Mary and the USAID Global Development Lab through cooperative agreement AID-OAA-A-12-00096.

Related Publications

No items found.

Featured Authors

Erik Wibbels

Erik Wibbels

Professor of Political Science at Duke University

Related Datasets

No items found.

Related Blog Posts

No items found.

Related Events

No items found.