Legislative term limits and government spending: Theory and evidence from the United States

Yasushi Asako*, Tetsuya Matsubayashi, Michiko Ueda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


What are the fiscal consequences of legislative term limits? To answer this question, we first develop a legislative bargaining model that describes negotiations over the allocation of distributive projects among legislators with different levels of seniority. Building on several predictions from the model, we develop two hypotheses for empirical testing. First, the adoption of term limits that results in a larger reduction in the variance of seniority within a legislature increases the amount of government spending. Second, legislatures that adopt stricter term limits increase the amount of government spending, while legislatures that adopt moderate term limits show no change in the amount. We provide evidence for these hypotheses using panel data for 49 US state legislatures between 1980 and 2010.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1501-1538
Number of pages38
JournalB.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Sept 1


  • elections
  • government spending
  • legislature
  • seniority
  • term limits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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