The Journal of Politics


Interlocal Cooperation and the Distribution of Federal Grant Awards

Kenneth N. Bickersa1 c1 and Robert M. Steina1 c2

a1 University of Colorado

a2 Rice University


Much of the research on the distribution of federal assistance focuses on the activities of members of Congress. Yet it has been long understood that seeking and receiving federal aid programs by state and local governments is a costly activity. What is not understood nor carefully studied is how local jurisdictions attempt to “work” the federal aid system to obtain increased federal funding. To investigate this question, we draw upon theories of collective action among governmental jurisdictions within metropolitan areas to explain both the quantity and quality of participation in the federal aid system. We focus on four questions: (1) To what extent is governmental fragmentation and interjurisdictional collaboration among governmental jurisdictions within metropolitan areas positively related to the ability of local actors to secure new federal grant awards? (2) To what extent do congressional delegations that represent voters within metropolitan areas influence the flow of grant awards to those areas? (3) To what extent are the efforts of congressional delegations to secure new grants conditional on partisan factors, both nationally and at the local level? (4) Do the effects of cooperative grant seeking endeavors vary across different types of grant programs? The single most important finding is that interlocal cooperation and governmental structure within metropolitan areas matter significantly in the distribution of federal assistance.

(Online publication November 19 2002)

(Received November 06 2003)


c1 Kenneth N. Bickers is professor of political science, University of Colorado-Boulder, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0333 (

c2 Robert M. Stein is Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science and Dean, School of Social Sciences, Rice University, Houston, TX 77251-1892 (