Business owners and executives as politicians: The effect on public policy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


When business owners and executives run for elected office, they claim their experience in business leaves them uniquely equipped to govern. Does electing a business owner or executive have an effect on public policy? With original data, including race, gender, political experience, and occupational backgrounds of 3,257 mayoral candidates from 263 cities, I document a striking lack of diversity in US mayoral politics and show that business owners and executives are extraordinarily well represented in American city halls. Nearly 32% of mayors have experience as a business owner or executive, making it the most common occupation across both time and geographic region. Using a regression discontinuity design, I find that business executive mayors do shape municipal fiscal policy by shifting the allocation of expenditures, investing in infrastructure while curtailing redistributive spending. Notably, my results suggest that business executive is not simply a proxy for Republican partisanship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1652-1668
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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