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The Relation between Public Policy and Some Structural and Environmental Variables in the American States*

  • Richard I. Hofferbert (a1)


What is the relationship between certain major structural aspects of state governments and the content of policies adopted in the states? Do the socio-economic environments of the states relate significantly to political structures or the type of policies enacted?

The thesis advanced here is that differences in policy, at least in certain substantive areas, are more readily explained in terms of differences in the socio-economic environments of the states than by an examination of structural variables. It will also be maintained that, as policy is independent of structure, so structure is also largely independent of some major aspects of the environment. The specific structural variables to be examined are apportionment, party competitiveness, and divided party control between governors and their legislatures.

Six specific propositions will be examined:

Proposition 1. The more imbalance in a state's apportionment, the less likely the legislature is to pass “liberal” or welfare-oriented policies beneficial to urban groups.

Proposition 2. The more imbalance in a state's apportionment, the less financial aid large cities will receive directly from the state.

Proposition 3. The more imbalance in a state's apportionment, the less competitive will be its major parties.

3a. the less competitive a state's two major parties, the less welfare-oriented will be the policies adopted by its legislature.

Proposition 4. The more imbalance in a state's apportionment, the more likely it is that control of the executive and legislative branches will be divided between parties.

4a. The more frequently control of the legislature and executive are divided, the less likely a state will be to adopt welfare-oriented policies.

Proposition 5. The more industrialized a state, the more imbalance there will be in its apportionment system.

Proposition 6. The more industrialized a state, the higher will be its welfare-orientation.



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I am grateful to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research for the use of their equipment and facilities while conducting this study.



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1 See, for example, Havard, William C. and Beth, Loren P., The Politics of Mis-Representation (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1962), p. 77; Shull, Charles W., “Political and Partisan Implications of State Legislative Apportionment,” Law and Contemporary Problems, 17 (Spring, 1952), 417439; Baker, Gordon E., Rural versus Urban Political Power (Garden City: Doubleday, 1955), p. 23; Jewell, Malcolm, The State Legislature: Politics and Practice (New York: Random House, 1962), p. 24; Keefe, William J. and Ogul, Morris S., The American Legislative Process (Englewood Cliffs; Prentice-Hall, 1964), p. 86; Lockard, Duane, New England State Politics (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1959), p. 275; Sorauf, Frank J., Party and Representation (New York: Atherton, 1962), pp. 22f.

2 See, for example, Dye, Thomas R., “Malapportionment and Public Policy in the States,” Journal of Politics, 27 (08, 1965), 586601; Jacob, Herbert, “The Consequences of Malapportionment: A Note of Caution,” Social Forces, 43 (12, 1964), 256261.

3 Schubert, Glendon and Press, Charles, “Measuring Malapportionment,” this Review, 58 (06, 1964), 302327; see also “Communications,” ibid., pp. 966–970, for corrections to calculations in the original article. The measure they propose suffers somewhat from the shortcomings of any composite quantitative device, with the possible exception of unidimensional scale categories. For example, by combining house and senate scores, they derive a score which does not necessarily reflect any real situation but acts as an average and has all the potential pitfalls of an average. Also, it is unable to take account of the gerrymander (a point consciously noted by the authors). But, as a recent article by Thomas R. Dye indicates, when employed as an explanatory device, the Schubert-Press measure seems to be no less useful than other measures that have been proposed. (See Thomas R. Dye, op. cit.) And the disadvantages of the other measures, discussed by Schubert and Press as well as by Dye, would seem to tip the scales in favor of the Schubert-Press technique.

4 Dye, op. cit.

5 Dawson, Richard E. and Robinson, James A., “Inter-party Competition, Economic Variables, and Welfare Policies in the American States,” Journal of Politics, 25 (05, 1963), 265289.

6 The nine items are:

1. Per cent of revenue from death and gift taxes

2. Per cent of revenue from the federal government

3. Per capita amount of all revenue

4. State and local revenue according to personal income

5. Per pupil expenditure for elementary and secondary education

6. Per recipient monthly aid to the blind

7. Per family monthly aid to dependent children

8. Per recipient monthly old age assistance

9. Per recipient weekly unemployment compensation.

7 Thus, I have 45 rankings for 48 states. Hawaii and Alaska are excluded as they have not been states throughout the period encompassed by the data. All of the data in the welfare-orientation index may be found in various volumes of the Book of the States, Council of State Governments, Chicago.

8 The strength of this assertion would be substantially enhanced if it were possible to view the patterns of reapportionment and their impact upon policy developmentally within each state. This has been done in one state: see Steiner, Gilbert Y. and Gove, Samuel R., Legislative Politics in Illinois (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1960), p. 132. But it is difficult to make comparative statements due to the absence of any uniformity in the various reapportlonment acts. I have examined one aspect of this by checking the rate of increase in spending for public welfare before and after reapportionment in every state which reapportioned between 1955 and 1962 (N = 22). No change could be detected; in fact, there was a slight drop in the mean rate of increase following reapportionment. The possibility of such investigation will be improved once the present stream of reapportionment suits is settled, assuming that the courts will be able to impose some standards of uniformity.

A conclusion similar to mine has been reached by Dye respecting the relationship between apportionment and policy. He employs a much larger number of policy variables individually and uses somewhat different statistical tests. He does not, however, employ an extended period of time to demonstrate policy orientations. This is probably a minor refinement, as my data show little overall change from year to year in the relative positions of the states on any of the items included in the welfare orientation index. See Dye, op.cit., pp. 595 ff.

The findings on Proposition 1 and Dye's conclusions also relate to David R. Derge's study of roll-call voting in the Missouri and Illinois legislatures. Derge examines more than 19,000 roll call votes over a decade of legislative activity. He concludes that, at the voting stage in these two states, there is no evidence of urbanrural antagonism—that the urban legislators are able to obtain passage of their legislation whenever they can maintain internal unity. Derge, David R., “Metropolitan and Outstate Alignments in Illinois and Missouri Legislative Delegations,” this Review, 52 (12, 1958), p. 1065; see also a critique by Richard T. Frost, “On Derge's Metropolitan and Outstate Legislative Delegations,” ibid., 53 (September, 1959), 792–795, and Derge's reply, ibid., 1097–1099. Derge's conclusions are supported in a survey of Ohio politics conducted by Thomas A. Flinn. One of Flinn's conclusions is that, “Urban-rural factionalism is unimportant in the Ohio General Assembly.” The Outline of Ohio Politics,” Western Political Quarterly, 13 (09, 1960), 702721.

9 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Compendium of City Government Finances in 1962 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1963). This document lists only cities over 50,000 in population. In a few states, there is only one such city. In these cases, only the percentage of the one city's general revenue from the state was used to calculate the state aid index.

This particular source of city funds is listed in the Compendium under “General Revenue” and classified as “Intergovernmental Revenue, from state government only.” The relevant definitions are:

General Revenue: “All city revenue except utility revenue, liquor stores revenue, and employees retirement or other insurance trust revenue. The basis for distinction is not the fund or administrative unit receiving particular amounts, but rather the nature of the revenue source concerned.”

Intergovernmental Revenue: “Amounts received from other governments as fiscal aid or as reimbursement for performance of general governmental services for the paying government. Excludes any amounts received from other governments for sale of property, commodities, or utility services. All intergovernmental revenue is classified as general revenue.”

10 See Key, V. O., Southern Politics (New York; Alfred A. Knopf, 1949), Ch. 1.

11 Key, V. O., American State Politics: An Introduction (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), p. 64; see also, Malcolm Jewell, op. cit., p. 24; Keefe and Ogul, op. cit., p. 92.

12 See Jewell, op. cit., p. 31.

13 Hofferbert, Richard I., “Classification of American State Party Systems,” Journal of Politics, 26 (08, 1964), 550567; see also, Ranney, Austin and Kendall, Willmoore, “The American Party Systems,” this Review, 48 (06, 1954), 477485; Schlesinger, Joseph A., “A Two-Dimensional Scheme for Classifying the States According to Degree of Inter-Party Competition,” this Review, 49 (12, 1955), 11201128.

14 Dawson and Robinson, op. cit., passim.

15 Key, American State Politics, Ch. 3.

16 See ibid., p. 57.

17 Golembiewski, Robert T., “A Taxonomic Approach to State Political Party Strength,” Western Political Quarterly, 11 (09, 1958), 494513.

18 An appreciation of this contrast may be gained from Vidich, Arthur and Bensman's, JosephSmall Town in Mass Society (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1958). They describe in considerable detail the variations of life style contained within a small, rural community and the manner in which these modes of existence are affected by and respond to the changing external world. One of the striking implications, often not recognized by the authors themselves, is that politics are not relevant to many aspects of life in “Springdale”—aspects long ago made political by urban man.

* I am grateful to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research for the use of their equipment and facilities while conducting this study.

The Relation between Public Policy and Some Structural and Environmental Variables in the American States*

  • Richard I. Hofferbert (a1)


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