By examining a novel data set of land acquisitions and condemnations for roads by all 50 states, this article attempts to formulate a positive theory of states' invocation of their eminent domain power. Litigation models based on irrationality and asymmetric information suggest that geography, demography, and legal rules may influence the frequency with which state officials resort to condemnation. To a significant degree, the data support these models, as water area and hilliness (geography), population density (demography), and legal rules (fee-shifting statutes) explain a significant portion of the state-state variation in condemnation rates. A number of other theoretically relevant explanatory variables do not seem to influence the level of eminent domain in a state (length of coastline, unusual constitutional takings provisions, political party in power, population growth rate, and economic growth rate). Finally we consider the difference between the model's predicted condemnation rate and the rate reported by each state. Some states can justify their seemingly high condemnation rates based on their geography and demography (e.g. Rhode Island's high condemnation rate is largely explained by it population density and large water area); some missing explanatory variables seem necessary to explain those states for which there are large residuals (e.g. Florida's large positive residual; Delaware's large negative residual).I expect that the most important of the "missing explanatory varialbes" is respect for property rights.
Republicans love eminent domain too
Further proof that "The traditional paradigm of constitutionalist Republicans resisting big government Democrats is no longer consistent with reality." Turns out republicans are just as likely as democrats to embracde the use of eminent domain. This is the most interesting finding in a research paper by a law professor at the College of William and Mary that examines what makes a difference in which states use more or less eminent domain. The abstract says: