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Electoral Design and Voter Welfare from the U.S. Senate: Evidence from a Dynamic Selection Model


Author Info

  • Gautam Gowrisankaran

    (University of Arizona)

  • Matthew F. Mitchell

    (University of Toronto)

  • Andrea Moro

    (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)


Since 1914, the U.S. Senate has been elected and incumbent senators allowed to run for reelection without limit. This differs from several other elected offices in the U.S., which impose term limits on incumbents. Term limits may harm the electorate if tenure is beneficial or if they force high quality candidates to retire but may also benefit the electorate if they cause higher quality candidates to run. We investigate how changes in electoral design affect voter utility by specifying and structurally estimating a dynamic model of voter decisions. We find that tenure effects for the U.S. Senate are negative or small and that incumbents face weaker challengers than candidates running for open seats. Because of this, term limits can significantly increase voter welfare. (Copyright: Elsevier)

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics in its journal Review of Economic Dynamics.

Volume (Year): 11 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 1-17

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Handle: RePEc:red:issued:06-91

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Related research

Keywords: Term limits; Incumbency advantage; Elections; Selection; Tenure; Senate;

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  1. Daniel Diermeier & Michael Keane & Antonio Merlo, 2005. "A Political Economy Model of Congressional Careers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 347-373, March.
  2. Michael Smart & Daniel M. Sturm, 2006. "Term Limits and Electoral Accountability," CEP Discussion Papers, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE dp0770, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  3. Goffe, William L & Ferrier, Gary D & Rogers, John, 1992. "Simulated Annealing: An Initial Application in Econometrics," Computer Science in Economics & Management, Society for Computational Economics, Society for Computational Economics, vol. 5(2), pages 133-46, May.
  4. Magnac & Thesmar, 2002. "Identifying dynamic discrete decision processes," Working Papers, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, France 155888, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, France.
  5. Gautam Gowrisankaran & Matthew F. Mitchell & Andrea Moro, 2004. "Why Do Incumbent Senators Win? Evidence from a Dynamic Selection Model," NBER Working Papers 10748, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Cox, Gary W. & Katz, Jonathan N., 1995. "Why Did The Incumbency Advantage In U.S. House Elections Grow?," Working Papers, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences 939, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  7. Rust, John, 1987. "Optimal Replacement of GMC Bus Engines: An Empirical Model of Harold Zurcher," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 55(5), pages 999-1033, September.
  8. Heckman, James & Singer, Burton, 1984. "A Method for Minimizing the Impact of Distributional Assumptions in Econometric Models for Duration Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 271-320, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Jason DeBacker, 2012. "Political parties and political shirking," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 150(3), pages 651-670, March.
  2. DeBacker, Jason, 2011. "The price of pork: The seniority trap in the U.S. House," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 63-78.
  3. Edward Wesep, 2012. "Defensive Politics," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 151(3), pages 425-444, June.
  4. Matilde Bombardini & Francesco Trebbi, 2007. "Votes or Money? Theory and Evidence from the US Congress," Working Paper Series, The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis 21-07, The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis, revised Jul 2007.
  5. Enriqueta Aragonès & Santiago Sánchez-Pagés, 2014. "Incumbency (dis)advantage when citizens can propose Abstract:This paper analyses the problem that an incumbent faces during the legislature when deciding how to react to citizen proposals such as the ," UB Economics Working Papers, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics 2014/314, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics.
  6. Tuvana Pastine & Ivan Pastine & Paul Redmond, 2012. "Incumbent-Quality Advantage and Counterfactual Electoral Stagnation in the U.S. Senate," Economics, Finance and Accounting Department Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting, National University of Ireland - Maynooth n221-12.pdf, Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting, National University of Ireland - Maynooth.
  7. Jason M. DeBacker, 2014. "Flip-Flopping: Ideological Adjustment Costs in the United States Senate," Working Papers, Middle Tennessee State University, Department of Economics and Finance 201403, Middle Tennessee State University, Department of Economics and Finance.


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