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ARPA / Mausolff
March 2002


Another Look at Elazars Formulation
University of Louisville
California State University, Bakersfield

In addition to deepening the understanding of factors that influence budget outputs, this study also seeks
to contribute to the larger discussion concerning the administrative implications of political culture.
The data indicate that political culture exerted an independent impact on total state and local spending
in the 1990s, even after controlling for commonly cited economic, political, and demographic variables.
Although other variables undoubtedly influence policy outputs, this study suggests that the role of political culture should not be ignored and may be very useful for explaining policy variations that exist
between jurisdictions.

According to the political culture perspective, public policies and budget outputs
are not only based on political and economic factors but also reflect a states historical and cultural forces (Hanson, 1991; Wildavsky, 1985). The political culture construct has occupied a prominent role in explicating political behavior since about
1960 (Almond & Coleman, 1960; Almond & Verba, 1963; Eckstein, 1988; Putnam,
1973), but its continuing salience for explaining administrative and public policy
behavior is open to debate (e.g., Savage, 1981). In the United States, continuing
immigration and transmigration may be obscuring the types of cultural distinctions
described by Elazar (1966), Fischer (1989), Garreau (1981), and Gastil (1975).
This article is an evaluation of the continuing salience of political culture and a discussion of its implications for state spending.
The culturepublic expenditure relationship has been examined in prior studies.
Researchers have explored the relationship with data from the 1960s (Johnson,
1976; Luttbeg, 1971) and 1980s (Miller, 1991) and found significant correlations
using a range of methods, including multiple regression and discriminant analysis.
The present research updates these earlier efforts with data from the 1990s and uses
panel data from multiple years for a more rigorous test of the relationship.
From the administrative perspective, the predictions of political culture theory
are antithetical to those of functionalist and public choice theories of budgeting
Initial Submission: October 22, 1999
Accepted: September 4, 2001
2002 Sage Publications




(Downs, 1967; Peterson, 1995). Both functionalist and public choice theories
imply consistent, rational responses by public officials to objective factors
(Eckstein, 1988). In functionalist theory, consistency is based on the efforts of public officials to maximize societal well-being, whereas in public choice theory, consistency is based on efforts to maximize individual self-interest. If behavior is based
on rational cost-benefit calculations, then each individual should find similar solutions to similar circumstances (Eckstein, 1988). Therefore, a cross-section of officials with the same set of revenues and public priorities would all be expected to
develop similar public budgets.
Instead of responding consistently and directly to political and economic factors, an alternative view is that behavior is mediated by internalized values, beliefs,
and underlying assumptions (Eckstein, 1988; Wildavsky 1985).1 In these cultural
explanations, public expenditures are expected to vary systematically, depending
on a state or regions dominant culture (Luttbeg, 1971; Miller, 1991). The culture
construct and alternative conceptions of U.S. culture are discussed in the following


Numerous older studies as well as more recent studies have defined the concept
of political culture (Almond & Powell, 1966; Almond & Verba, 1980; Beer, 1962;
Devine, 1972; Pye, 1965; Verba, 1965) and explained American culture (Elazar,
1966, 1994; Fischer, 1989; Garreau, 1981; Gastil, 1975; Koven, 1999; Lieske,
1993, 2000).2 For example, Almond and Powell (1966, p. 12) defined political culture as consisting of the psychological dimensions of the political system. Samuel
Beer (1962, p. 32) viewed culture as the values, emotions, and perceptions relating
to how government ought to be conducted and what it should try to do. Devine
(1972, p. 14) contended that political culture consisted of a distinct identity system,
a symbol system, a rule system, and a belief system. Almond and Verba (1963,
1989, pp. 12-14) defined political culture as political orientations or attitudes
toward the political system. These authors and others have generally asserted that
culture has broad implications that affect the performance of political systems
(Almond & Verba, 1989, pp. 31-34).
The idea that cultural orientations affect politics and policy outputs is well established in the literature. The notion of political culture has been around as long as
people have spoken and written about politics (Almond, 1980). The prophets of the
Bible imputed different qualities and preferences to groups such as the Philistines,
the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. Greek and Roman historians described cultural
distinctions between Spartans, Athenians, and Corinthians. The Athenian scholar
Plato affirmed the salience of political culture in his writings, arguing that governments vary as the dispositions of men vary. To Plato, states were shaped by the
human natures of citizens or from the values, attitudes, and socialization


ARPA / March 2002

experiences of individuals who lived within the states (Almond, 1980, p. 2). Similarly, Wildavsky (1985) described culture as emerging from social interaction in
defending and opposing different ways of life (p. 350). Out of this process, distinct
national political cultures are created as combinations of beliefs, values, and
assumptions produce different regime types. Wildavsky asserted that people continuously construct and reconstruct their cultures through decision making.
According to Wildavsky, this process identified three distinct types of regimes
(market regimes, hierarchy regimes, and sectarian regimes). In the fourth type of
regime, groups have prescriptions imposed on them from the outside. Wildavsky
used this categorization to explain and predict differential levels of government revenues, expenditures, and deficits in advanced, industrialized nations. Whereas
Wildavsky assigned a single cultural designation to the United States, a number of
other studies have distinguished a number of distinct political cultures within the
country (e.g., Anton, 1989; Fenton, 1957; Garreau, 1981; Gastil, 1975; Key, 1949;
Lockard, 1959).
Cultural studies appear to have enjoyed a renewal of attention in the 1980s and
1990s (Elazar, 1994; Ellis, 1993; Fischer, 1989; Garreau, 1981; Lieske, 1993). Two
popular studies in particular contributed to this renewed attention (Fischer, 1989;
Garreau, 1981). In a broadly recognized study of culture, Garreau (1981) claimed
that North America is culturally heterogeneous, consisting of nine qualitatively distinct areas that were labeled (a) New England, (b) the Foundry, (c) Dixie, (d) the
Islands, (e) Mexamerica, (f) Ecotopia, (g) the Empty Quarter, (h) the Breadbasket,
and (i) Quebec. Fischer (1989) provided further insight into cultural distinctions
within the United States, contending that American culture is defined by four great
migrations: (a) the movement of Puritans between 1629 and 1640 from East Anglia
in Great Britain to the area now known as Massachusetts, (b) the transplantation of
a small royalist elite and indentured servants from the south of England to Virginia
between 1642 and 1675, (c) migrations from the north midlands of England and
Wales to the Delaware River valley from 1675 to 1725, and (d) the movement of
people from the borders of England and northern Ireland to the Appalachian
backcountry between 1718 and 1775. Each of these migrations transplanted distinctive cultural predispositions that have endured over time. Perhaps the most pronounced distinction is found in the disparity between the Puritan culture (deeply
imbued with religious conviction as well as selective ideas about the roles of churches,
town meetings, and family) and the hierarchically oriented royalist culture.
Fischer (1989, p. 6) contended that the four migratory groups shared many qualities: they all spoke English, nearly all were British Protestants, most lived under
British laws, and most took pride in possessing British liberties. At the same time,
notable differences existed in terms of religious denomination, social rank, dialect,
type of housing, and method of conducting ordinary business. Fischer believed that
these four sets of British folkways formed the basis of regional cultures in the New
World. Subsequent to the English migrations, other patterns of immigration helped
further define the cultural differences that are apparent in the United States today.



Political cultures have clear political implications for major concepts such as
order, power, freedom, and tolerance. Often, various cultures intermingled to form
hybrid cultures that reflected parts of one culture or another. Fischer (1989, p. 7)
stated that the interplay of the differing conceptions of ideals such as freedom created an expansive pluralism that is more libertarian than any unitary culture alone
could be. He maintained that many political conceptions today are grounded in the
four great migrations from Great Britain.
With the exception of the fourth wave, Fischers (1989) characterization corresponds to Daniel Elazars classification of political subcultures in the American
states, a formulation said to be the most well known of all cultural classifications of
American territories (Erikson, Wright, & McIver, 1993, p. 68). Elazar placed each
of the 50 American states into three categories: (a) moralistic culture, (b) individualistic culture, and (c) traditionalistic culture. According to Elazar, these categories
are traceable to differences in immigrant groups that tended to congregate in their
own settlements, tended to migrate together, and shared similar political ideals.
Elazar noted that different strata of people settled in distinct areas and left observable residues of population as groups migrated westward. The culture of a specific
state or city mirrored the cultural geology of settlement and migration patterns that
were common to the area.
Migrations of groups established either pure cultures or mixes of overlapping
cultures in each of the 50 states. These cultures carried explicit views about government, bureaucracy, and politics. For example, the moralistic political culture of
early Puritan settlers dominated the New England region. This culture was
grounded in the religious ideals of the Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay
Colony. In moralistic cultures, government is considered a legitimate instrument
for promoting public welfare (Elazar, 1966). In contrast to the moralism that pervaded the Puritan settlements, the middle states reflected an emphasis on individual
pursuits. Religious tolerance, pluralism (as opposed to the more dogmatic perspectives of Puritans), and a preference for limited government marked the middle
states cultural preference. Tolerance and acceptance of differences is consistent
with Quaker values, prevalent in this area. These individualistic values contrasted
sharply with the norms of the Puritans. For example, when Puritan beliefs were
challenged in Massachusetts, dissidents such as Roger Williams were expelled
from the colony. With respect to political ideology, individualist cultures emphasize the conception of the democratic order as a marketplace. Under this view, government was instituted for strictly utilitarian reasons to handle functions demanded
by the people it served. It placed a premium on limiting community intervention
into private activities to the minimum necessary to keep the marketplace in proper
working order (Elazar, 1966).
Finally, the migration patterns that eventually populated the southern region of
the United States inculcated a mind-set that replicated norms of the landed gentry of
Europe. Settlers in this region adopted a traditionalistic culture that viewed government as a means of maintaining the existing order. The traditionalistic culture provided a natural environment for landowners to assume a dominant role in the


ARPA / March 2002

political process. The values of this culture dominated the old South and over time
spread to the Southwest (Elazar, 1966).
Elazars conception of political culture sparked a great deal of interest and subsequent study (Erikson et al., 1993; Fitzpatrick & Hero, 1988; Herzik, 1985; Johnson, 1976; Joslyn, 1980; Lowery & Sigelman, 1982; Morgan & Watson, 1991;
Nardulli, 1990; Savage, 1981; Schlitz & Rainey, 1978; Sharkansky, 1969; Welch &
Peters, 1980). Furthermore, there is a considerable amount of evidence supporting
the continued relevance of Elazars conceptualization.
Recent studies (Fischer, 1989; Lieske, 1993, 2000) have mostly verified the
durability of Elazars insights. Lieske (1993, p. 889) identified approximately 100
empirical studies that address Elazars thesis or variations of his thesis. After careful empirical analysis, Erikson et al. (1993, p. 175) concluded that the data offer
startlingly strong support for Elazars formulation. Other studies have also confirmed Elazars cultural classification. Lieske (1993, 2000) used principal component and cluster analysis techniques to partition the entire population of American
counties into 10 distinctive subcultures. The population was partitioned on the
basis of racial origin, ethnic ancestry, religious affiliation, and social structure.
Lieske found that his categorization, although more contemporary, was not superior to Elazars classification in explaining political outcomes such as voter turnout, voter registration, or local public policy. In fact, Elazars classification was
superior in explaining some public policy outputs, such as Aid to Families with
Dependent Children payments, local government revenues, welfare expenditures,
and the welfare tax burden. Lieske (1993) noted that Elazars classification was
about equal to his categorization in explaining the overall tax burden and educational expenditures.
As this discussion indicates, there are a number of reasons for using Elazars
framework to operationalize culture in this study: (a) it lends itself to predictions
about the willingness of different cultures to support government spending; (b) it
has been well researched and generally found to be at least as valid an indicator of
culture as other measures, including those based on updated demographic data; and
(c) because of its basis in early migration patterns, it provides a test of the influence
of cultural history on current policy.


This study of the political culturepublic expenditure relationship is based on
panel data from 49 of the 50 United States over a 5-year period (1992 to 1996).3 By
analyzing data over multiple years, we decreased the likelihood that our results are
due merely to a chance variation of a specific year. The basic underlying structure
of the data is provided in Table 1, which shows the average per capita expenditure
levels in various categories of spending for the three types of political culture. Comparisons are made in terms of average per capita expenditures to control for population differences among states. This comparison also provides a good indication of



TABLE 1: Average Per Capita Expenditures by Political Culture, 1992 to 1996

Political Culture
Expenditure Category
(per capita dollars)
Total expenditures
Order maintenance spending
Sum of order maintenance
Developmental spending
Redistributive spending
Public welfare
Sum of redistributive
















the impact of culture on expenditures without controlling for political and economic factors.
Table 1 indicates that spending differs considerably among moralistic, individualistic, and traditionalistic groups of states. As anticipated, average per capita total
spending between 1992 and 1996 was lowest in traditionalistic states. This is consistent with the more restrictive view of government held in this subculture. Also, as
predicted from the parameters of the traditionalistic subculture, traditionalistic
states placed a greater emphasis on functions that serve to maintain order (such as
the corrections and police categories) and a smaller emphasis on redistributive
types of expenditures, such as education and public welfare.4
Table 1 shows the differences in per capita spending among the three groups of
states. Such differences in spending, however, may not be caused by differences in
political culture but instead may be influenced by other economic and political variables. The literature indicates that economic conditions are strongly linked to policy outputs and that bivariate relationships may disappear once relevant economic
and political variables are considered. To control for these other factors, the expenditure impact of culture is tested in this study using multivariate methods.
The tested model controls for the impact of income, legislative party affiliation,
and urbanization. In this model, it is assumed that the situation in the prior year
determines expenditures for the following year. Therefore, each independent variable is lagged 1 year, except for culture, which is fixed. The following model was
EXPENDit = 1INCOMEit 1 + 2DEMSit 1 + 3METROit 1 + 4CULTUREi,


ARPA / March 2002

where EXPENDit is the combined state and local per capita expenditures between
1992 and 1996, INCOMEit 1 is state per capita income lagged 1 year, DEMSit 1 is
the percentage of Democrats in the state legislature lagged 1 year, METROit 1 is the
percentage of the population living in urban areas lagged 1 year, CULTUREi represents Sharkanskys (1969) Political Culture Scale, and it is the ith state at time t.
To control for the presence of autocorrelated, heteroskedastic, and cross-sectionally
correlated errors, the model estimates were obtained with a random effects model
(using LIMDEP statistical software). The results of the Hausman test indicated that
a random-effects model was more appropriate than either a fixed-effects model or
classical ordinary least squares (see Greene, 2000).
Per capita income was used as a surrogate measure for the taxable resources of
each state. The link between wealth and public policy expenditures is well established in the literature (Dawson & Robinson, 1963; Dye, 1966; Sharkansky &
Hofferbert, 1969) and was a strong predictor of state expenditures. The impact of
politics on expenditures was measured by calculating the percentage of state legislators who were members of the Democratic Party. Democrats were expected to
support higher levels of spending (particularly for redistributional categories)
because of the Democratic Partys espoused values and national policy platforms.
The percentage of a states population residing in metropolitan areas provided
the measure for the demographic nature of the state. Peterson (1995, pp. 93-101)
suggested that spending is related to the proportion of a population living in central
cities because of diseconomies of scale and the existence of well-organized groups
of public employees who demand higher salaries. In addition, Peterson suggested
that the possession of valuable land in cities might encourage high levels of taxation
and spending.
Culture was operationalized using Sharkanskys (1969) numerical rating of
Elazars culture types. This rating scale has been used in previous research
(Fitzpatrick & Hero, 1988; Morgan & Watson, 1991) and assigns each state a culture rating on a scale ranging from 1 to 9. In Sharkanskys scale, 1 is a pure moralistic culture, 5 a pure individualistic culture, and 9 a pure traditionalistic culture.
Values between these pure types refer to states with combinations of culture types.
In fact, a distinct advantage of Sharkanskys scale (e.g., over most dummy variable
approaches) is that it can accommodate most combinations of the three culture types.
The numerical score assigned to each state by Sharkansky is shown in Table 2.
It was expected that traditionalistic states would have the lowest expenditures
and moralistic the highest. Therefore, we expected to see a negative relationship
between the culture variable and public expenditures. Table 3 describes the regression coefficients and standard errors found in the model. As expected, per capita
income was positively correlated with public expenditures (significant at the .01
level). Contrary to the findings of Peterson (1995), the party affiliations of legislators and urbanization were not significant. Most importantly for this study, the
political culture variable was significant (at the .05 level) and in the predicted negative direction. For each full-point drop in Sharkanskys (1969) 9-point Political



TABLE 2: Each States Score on Sharkanskys Political Culture Scale

South Carolina
North Carolina
West Virginia
New Mexico


New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island


South Dakota
New Hampshire
North Dakota


NOTE: Sharkansky (1969) did not assign scores for Hawaii or Missouri. We calculated scores for these
states by averaging the separate culture designations Elazar (1966) made on a map of the states. This
method is the same as the one used by Sharkansky to derive the scale. In the above table, each state is
placed in a column on the basis of Elazars summary designation for that state. As discussed by
Sharkansky, there is a slight difference between each states score on the Political Culture Scale and
Elazars summary designation.
TABLE 3: The Impact of Political Culture on Spending in the United States, 1992 to 1996

R = .52
EXPENDit = 1,890.96 + .15 INCOMEit 1 + 77.74 DEMSit 1 + .22 METROit 1 + 65.96 CULTUREi
*p < .05, one-tailed t test. **p < .01, one-tailed t test.

Culture Scale, there was a drop in per capita spending of $66. Because a four-point
difference separates each pure culture category, the model predicts a per capita
spending difference of $264 with each category change. The importance of culture
to the model is also indicated by the fact that adding it to the equation increases the
R2 coefficient from .44 to .52.
The influence of political culture was also tested on seven individual categories
of spending (education, corrections, highways, police, public welfare, hospitals,
and health). Of these, culture was significantly correlated only with educational and
hospital spending. It appears that culture does not exist in a deterministic manner
for all categories of spending.5 This result is not inconsistent with Elazars conception of political culture, which implies general predispositions toward government
rather than predictions for specific expenditure categories.


ARPA / March 2002


The results of this research and earlier studies (e.g., Johnson, 1976; Miller,
1991) suggest that functionalist and public choice theories of budgeting are not
complete. Public expenditures in the United States appear to be based not just on
objective political and economic factors but also on culture. The causal mechanism
of this effect could not be determined. It is not evident whether expenditures vary
because public officials have internalized their cultural environment or, alternatively, whether officials are simply responding to the culture of their respective constituents. Consideration of the tacit nature of culture suggests that not all of the
impact is based on political responsiveness.
Nonetheless, either explanation is consistent with the continued existence of
distinct cultures among the states. Despite the age of Elazars cultural system and
ongoing demographic changes, the culture-expenditure link remains intact.
Acknowledgement of the cultural milieu should be beneficial from both public policy and administrative perspectives. From the policy perspective, the understanding
of why outputs differ is enhanced. From the administrative perspective, knowledge
of the environment provides cues for managers who wish to adapt to their environments. This study suggests that administrators who are sensitized to historical and
cultural forces may be more successful than those who rigidly apply
one-size-fits-all formulas. As a nation of immigrants, the United States is more
heterogeneous both ethnically and culturally than other advanced industrialized
nations. Furthering the understanding of cultural diversity should assist in explaining why fiscal prescriptions may differ by jurisdiction and should be helpful in
explaining budget behavior.

1. According to Wildavsky (1985), for example, peoples preferences and their culture are woven
together because they continuously construct and reconstruct their culture through decision-making (p. 350). In different cultures, therefore, people exhibit different preferences regarding government involvement in society, preferences that ultimately yield differences in public expenditure
2. These studies view culture as stable but not immutable. For example, Inglehart (1990, p. 5)
concluded that the values of people in Western nations have been shifting in recent decades. This
shift represents a change from an overwhelming emphasis on material well-being and physical security toward greater emphasis on the quality of life.
3. In accordance with Cohen and Cohens (1983) recommendation for treating extreme outliers,
Alaska was removed from the data set. Data for each state were obtained from the following reports:
Statistical Abstract of the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 1991-1996) and State Government
Finances (U.S. Census Bureau, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997).
4. Some disagreement exists in regard to the categorization of education spending. Although
many scholars consider education to be a redistributive function, Peterson (1995, p. 65) chose to
classify education as a developmental function, recognizing that many people would consider his
classification as incorrect.



5. The culture variable was correlated with the largest individual category of spending (education). This relationship more than compensated for weaker associations discovered in other categories of spending and helps explain the significance of total public expenditures.

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Steven G. Koven is a professor in the Department of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of
Louisville. His research interests are in the areas of public sector budgeting and American public
policy. His most recent book is titled Public Budgeting in the United States: The Cultural and
Ideological Setting (Georgetown University Press, 1999).
Christopher Mausolff is an assistant professor in the Public Policy and Administration Department at California State University, Bakersfield. He earned his B.A. cum laude in economics
from the University of Colorado and his Ph.D. in public administration from the University of
Pittsburgh. He has served as a consultant to the Operations Evaluation Department of the World
Bank as well as to nonprofit organizations in the United States and Guatemala. His teaching and
research interests are in organization development, performance monitoring, strategic planning, and democratic theory.