December, 2009

The Political Economy of FEMA: Did Reorganization Matter?

  • Peter Leeson

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Christopher Coyne

    Associate Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Russel Sobel

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This West Virginia University Working Paper investigates the political economy of FEMA’s post-9/11 merger with the Department of Homeland Security. Using panel data for the post-DHS merger but pre-Katrina period, the authors examine how FEMA’s much-debated reorganization has impacted the strong political influences on disaster declaration and relief spending identified by Garrett and Sobel (2003) before FEMA’s reorganization. The authors  find that although politically-important states for the president continue to have a higher rate of disaster declaration, disaster expenditures are no longer higher in states with congressional representation on FEMA oversight committees. These results suggest reorganization has reduced political pressures within FEMA. Tullock’s theory of bureaucracy helps to explain this change.

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