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Socially Optimal Districting: A Theoretical and Empirical Exploration

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  • Stephen Coate

    (Cornell University)

  • Brian Knight

    (Brown University)

Abstract

This paper investigates the problem of optimal districting in the context of a simple model of legislative elections. In the model, districting matters because it determines the seat-vote curve, which describes the relationship between seats and votes. The paper first characterizes the optimal seat-vote curve and shows that, under a weak condition, there exist districtings that generate this ideal relationship. The paper then develops an empirical methodology for computing seat-vote curves and measuring the welfare gains from implementing optimal districting. This is applied to analyze the districting plans used to elect U.S. state legislators during the 1990s. (c) 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 122 (2007)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
Pages: 1409-1471

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:4:p:1409-1471

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  1. Lockwood, Ben, 1998. "Distributive Politics and the Costs of Centralization," CEPR Discussion Papers 2046, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Prat, Andrea, 1999. "Campaign Advertising and Voter Welfare," CEPR Discussion Papers 2152, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  10. Roland G. Fryer Jr. & Richard Holden, 2011. "Measuring the Compactness of Political Districting Plans," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(3), pages 493 - 535.
  11. Stephen Coate & Brian Knight, 2005. "Socially Optimal Districting," NBER Working Papers 11462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. John N. Friedman & Richard T. Holden, 2008. "Optimal Gerrymandering: Sometimes Pack, but Never Crack," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 113-44, March.
  13. A. Lizzeri & Persico N., 1999. "Provision of Public Goods Under Alternative Electral Incentives," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 99f4, Economics Department, Princeton University.
  14. Osborne, Martin J & Slivinski, Al, 1996. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 65-96, February.
  15. Thomas Gilligan & John Matsusaka, 2006. "Public choice principles of redistricting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 129(3), pages 381-398, December.
  16. Matsusaka, John G & McCarty, Nolan M, 2001. "Political Resource Allocation: Benefits and Costs of Voter Initiatives," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 413-48, October.
  17. Stephen Coate, 2004. "Pareto-Improving Campaign Finance Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 628-655, June.
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