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Electoral Rules and Minority Representation in U.S. Cities

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  • Francesco Trebbi

    (Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago)

  • Philippe Aghion

    (Department of Economics, Harvard University and Canadian Institute for Advanced Research)

  • Alberto Alesina

    (Department of Economics, Harvard University, National Bureau of Economic Research, and Centre for Economic Policy Research)

Abstract

This paper studies the choice of electoral rules and in particular the question of minority representation. Majorities tend to disenfranchise minorities through strategic manipulation of electoral rules. With the aim of explaining changes in electoral rules adopted by U.S. cities, particularly in the South, we show why majorities tend to adopt "winner-take-all" city-wide rules (at-large elections) in response to an increase in the size of the minority when the minority they are facing is relatively small. In this case, for the majority it is more effective to leverage on its sheer size instead of risking conceding representation to voters from minority-elected districts. However, as the minority becomes larger (closer to a fifty-fifty split), the possibility of losing the whole city induces the majority to prefer minority votes to be confined in minority-packed districts. Single-member district rules serve this purpose. We show empirical results consistent with these implications of the model in a novel data set covering U.S. cities and towns from 1930 to 2000. (c) 2008 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): 123 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 325-357

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:1:p:325-357

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  1. Hummel, Patrick & Holden, Richard, 2014. "Optimal primaries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 64-75.
  2. Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 2001. "Incentives and Political Economy," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199248681, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Justesen, Mogens K., 2012. "Democracy, dictatorship, and disease: Political regimes and HIV/AIDS," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 373-389.
  2. Carlos Scartascini & Mariano Tommasi & Ernesto Stein, 2010. "Veto Players and Policy Trade-Offs- An Intertemporal Approach to Study the Effects of Political Institutions on Policy," Research Department Publications 4660, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  3. Alberto Alesina & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2008. "Segregation and the Quality of Government in a Cross-Section of Countries," Working Papers w0120, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
  4. Stephen Coate & Brian Knight, 2009. "Government Form and Public Spending: Theory and Evidence from U.S. Municipalities," NBER Working Papers 14857, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Martin Ardanaz & Carlos Scartascini, 2011. "Why Don’t We Tax the Rich? Inequality, Legislative Malapportionment, and Personal Income Taxation around the World," Research Department Publications 4724, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  6. Konstantin Sonin & Sergei Guriev, 2008. "Dictators and Oligarchs: A Dynamic Theory of Contested Property Rights," 2008 Meeting Papers 1072, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  7. Elizabeth U. Cascio & Ebonya L. Washington, 2012. "Valuing the Vote: The Redistribution of Voting Rights and State Funds Following the Voting Rights Act of 1965," NBER Working Papers 17776, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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