Date of Award

Fall 12-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

First Advisor

Jeffrey Lazarus

Second Advisor

Charles Hankla

Third Advisor

Amy Steigerwalt


An extensive literature examines how distributive (i.e., “pork barrel”) spending is allocated among congressional districts. Much of this research finds evidence that intra-chamber factors like ideology, party, and committee membership are the primary determinants of various forms of distributive spending. However, we know much less about how extra-chamber factors such as district-level demand and the economy impact the distribution of federal outlays. In this study, I find that district-level demand and variation in economic factors, in particular, income and unemployment, significantly predict the distribution of new bureaucratic awards in the 110th Congress. The results support the contention that districts get what they need, and this raises questions about the ability of members of powerful committees to steer awards selectively to their districts. It also provides evidence for the economic “law of increasing state activity,” by which districts with higher income levels receive a larger share of federal assistance.