Civic engagement and government spending: Lessons from global warming

by Anna Lo Prete and Agnese Sacchi; CeRP WP N. 214/23


This article examines the relationship between civic engagement and government spending. We define civic engagement along three dimensions of citizens’ participation: in civil society associations; on e-government platforms; by voting at national elections. To exogenously vary the willingness to engage, we assume that reactions to global warming differ across countries due to preferences for collectivism, attitudes toward interacting behind a screen, and geo-climate features. We consistently estimate that civil and electronic participation increase government spending and welfare programs, compatibly with the hypothesis that more participative societies are associated with redistributive policies.
Instead, electoral participation decreases it, compatibly with a selection mechanism whereby the fraction of voters, moved by the environmental threat that global warming represents for the collectivity, distance themselves from political engagement through the traditional electoral channels.

Published: November 2023