Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William J. Moore


Our model examines the allocation of medical research funds at the National Institutes of Health using public interest theory, incremental budgeting theory, and special interest group theory. We use the allocation of research funds among various diseases and measures of the burden of disease on the population to test the hypothesis that the N.I.H. is allocating funds on a pure public interest basis, to test for incremental budgeting effects, and to test for the influence of lobbying and other political variables representing special interest groups. We use pooled cross-sectional, time-series data in a one-way fixed effects model, and also use separate cross-sectional data in a standard multiple regression model. We also evaluate the effect of political variables on the distribution of research funds among the states. We find evidence to support the public interest, incremental budgeting, and special interest group theories of regulation in the operation of the N.I.H. Using the pooled data sets, we find that the N.I.H. does not respond to changes in death patterns over time, but does consider death patterns in the initial allocation of funding across diseases. Funding increases primarily as a result of incremental budgeting. However, using the more recent and more inclusive cross-sectional disease data, we find that the burden of disease, whether measured by deaths, years of life lost, or hospital stays, does matter in the allocation of funding among diseases, which is evidence that the N.I.H. does consider the public interest when making funding decisions. We also find, however, that the allocation among diseases is impacted by lobbying dollars, and that the allocation across states is influenced by political factors, both of which provide support for the special interest group theory of regulation.