Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Committee Chair

Neil Berch.


The literature on the distributive politics model suggests that elected officials strategically allocate public benefits to curry favors, secure votes and gain reelection. In other words, elected officials distribute public benefits in such a way as to enhance their own personal careers and goals. Unfortunately, this centralized, top-down perspective (Rich 1989), which focuses exclusively on the motivations of the elected officials, fails to consider the political, economic and social characteristics of the governmental unit represented by the officials. These contextual factors may influence the allocation decisions made by the elected officials. Thus, an expanded distributive politics model---one that takes into account the form of government, size of city, geographical region, per capita income and poverty level of the jurisdiction---may better explain allocation decisions made by elected officials than the traditional model. Specifically, this research will examine how and why cities and their elected representatives allocate federal community development block grant (CDBG) dollars. The main contribution of this work is to offer a more comprehensive approach that considers a variety of contextual factors ignored by the traditional distributive politics model. Expanding the traditional distributive politics model to include a thorough understanding of the saliency and role of contextual factors will result in easier and more reliable predictions about how public benefits are likely to be allocated.