Variability in State Policy Priorities: An Empirical Analysis

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Abstract

This article examines variability in policy priorities across the American states; that is, the ways that state governments allocate resources to meet societal needs. Specifically, our analysis uses 1992 data on state program expenditures to produce a comprehensive geometric representation—or model—of state policy priorities for that year. This model is parsimonious, powerful, and substantively meaningful. The structure of state policy priorities is manifested as a sharp contrast between programs that deliver particularized benefits and those that supply collective goods. Furthermore, we show that policy priorities are largely determined by public opinion and interest group activity within the respective states. Therefore, our analysis not only operationalizes successfully a critical aspect of the policy process; it also makes a useful contribution to the study of state politics.

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