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The price of pork: The seniority trap in the U.S. House

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  • DeBacker, Jason

Abstract

Using data on federal outlays and U.S. House elections, I estimate the effect of the pork barrel on the quality of officeholders, taking into account the fact that seniority creates a dynamic linkage across periods. After estimating the parameters governing the influence of seniority on federal outlays and the parameters governing the distributions of candidate quality, I conduct several policy experiments to uncover the size of the welfare loss created by the seniority system. I find that the seniority system negatively impacts the quality of representatives, but has little effect on the outcomes of elections. Furthermore, the most commonly proposed solution to the distortion, term limits, may have a significant, negative effect on the quality of sitting representatives. Instead of a quantity constraint (term limits), I propose a change in the relative price of seniority by way of a Pigouvian tax on seniority. Such a policy achieves the first-best outcome.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 95 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1-2 (February)
Pages: 63-78

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:1-2:p:63-78

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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Keywords: Pork barrel Seniority system Incumbency advantage House of Representatives Term limits;

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References

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Cited by:
  1. Andersen, Jørgen Juel & Fiva, Jon H. & Natvik, Gisle James, 2014. "Voting when the stakes are high," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 157-166.
  2. Jason M. DeBacker, 2014. "Flip-Flopping: Ideological Adjustment Costs in the United States Senate," Working Papers 201403, Middle Tennessee State University, Department of Economics and Finance.
  3. Smart, Michael & Sturm, Daniel M., 2013. "Term limits and electoral accountability," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 93-102.
  4. Christopher Duquette & Franklin Mixon & Richard Cebula, 2013. "The Impact of Legislative Tenure and Seniority on General Election Success: Econometric Evidence from U.S. House Races," Atlantic Economic Journal, International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 41(2), pages 161-172, June.

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