​​​Congruence or Disconnect? Local Issue Priorities and Public Spending in Kenya


​I investigate whether legislators in the Kenyan parliament (MPs) are responsive to the preferences of their local constituents. I first assess the level of congruence between constituency-level issue priorities estimated via multilevel regression and post-stratification and the sectoral allocation decisions made by MPs regarding the Constituency Development Fund. My analyses yield three key insights. First, overall, evidence suggests a disconnect rather than congruence. Second, the level of congruence between constituency-level public opinion and MP spending decisions are heterogeneous across different spending categories. Third, any limited congruence observed is driven primarily by swing constituencies in which the MP won with a narrow margin of victory in the previous election. I expand on this exploratory analysis to causally identify the effect of local issue salience by exploiting exogenous sources of variation across two public spending categories: water and security. The results of the analysis confirm that despite substantial increases in local issue salience induced by these exogenous events, only legislators that are competing in swing constituencies respond to constituent preferences by increasing spending in those categories.

Working Paper