In a new piece for the New America blog, associate Network member Hollie Russon-Gilman and the World Bank’s Tiago Peixoto make the case for expanding the use of participatory budgeting (PB) across the U.S. Russon-Gilman and Peixoto focus in particular on the increasing evidence showing that PB initiatives lead to more representative spending decisions and increased levels of positive citizen perceptions and interactions with government:
“Available evidence suggests that PB leads to significant shifts in government spending toward priorities that directly benefit the poor. A World Bank report, for instance, illuminated that participatory budgeting has a statistically significant impact on a number of social indicators, with PB positively and strongly associated with improvements in poverty rates and water services. More recently, studies examining the effect of participatory budgeting in Brazil found that the improved alignment between government spending and popular preferences led to increased investments in sanitation and health services, ultimately leading to a significant reduction in infant mortality rates. Put another way, research has shown that participatory budgeting tends to lead to policies that voters—especially poorer voters—prefer.
And it seems that, when governments listen, citizens reward them both politically and financially. In other words, the existing evidence suggests that, when PB is in place, incumbents become more likely to be re-elected, and government revenues increase as citizens become less likely to engage in tax delinquency. Tapping into the wisdom of the crowd, in short, pays off for both citizens and governments. But participatory budgeting isn’t merely a technocratic, good-government innovation. By including ordinary people in the core function of government—deciding how to spend money—it represents one of the most authentic ways of making a government literally of the people, by the people, and for the people.”