March 2012

IZA DP No. 6449: The Regional Distribution of Public Employment: Theory and Evidence

revised and updated version forthcoming in: Regional Studies, 2016

We analyze the optimal regional pattern of public employment in an information-constrained second-best redistribution policy showing that regionally differentiated public employment can serve as an expenditure side tagging device, bypassing or relaxing the equity-efficiency trade-off. The optimal pattern exhibits higher levels of public employment in low productivity regions and is more pronounced the higher is the degree of regional inequality within the country. Empirically, using a panel of European regions from 1995-2007, we find evidence that public employment is systematically higher in low productivity regions. The latter effect is stronger in countries with higher levels of regional inequality.