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Socially Optimal Districting: A Theoretical and Empirical Exploration

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  • Coate, Stephen

    (Cornell U)

  • Knight, Brian

    (Brown U)

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.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics in its series Working Papers with number 07-06.

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Date of creation: Apr 2007
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:corcae:07-06

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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. Roger B. Myerson, 1998. "Theoretical Comparisons of Electoral Systems," Discussion Papers 1261, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  3. Stephen Coate, 2004. "Pareto-Improving Campaign Finance Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 628-655, June.
  4. 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.
  5. Stephen Coate & Brian Knight, 2005. "Socially Optimal Districting," NBER Working Papers 11462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Persson, Torsten & Roland, Gérard & Tabellini, Guido, 1997. "Comparative Politics and Public Finance," CEPR Discussion Papers 1737, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Tim Besley & Ian Preston, 2007. "Electoral bias and policy choice: theory and evidence," IFS Working Papers W07/06, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  8. 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.
  9. Prat, Andrea, 2002. "Campaign Advertising and Voter Welfare," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(4), pages 999-1017, October.
  10. Tim Besley, 2002. "Political institutions and policy choices: evidence from the United States," IFS Working Papers W02/13, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  11. 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.
  12. A. Lizzeri & Persico N., 1999. "Provision of Public Goods Under Alternative Electral Incentives," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 99f4, Economics Department, Princeton University.
  13. Arianna Degan & Antonio Merlo, 2006. "Do Voters Vote Sincerely?," PIER Working Paper Archive 06-008, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  14. Thomas Gilligan & John Matsusaka, 2006. "Public choice principles of redistricting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 129(3), pages 381-398, December.
  15. 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.
  16. Katerina Sherstyuk, 1998. "How to gerrymander: A formal analysis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 95(1), pages 27-49, April.
  17. David S. Lee & Enrico Moretti & Matthew J. Butler, 2004. "Do Voters Affect Or Elect Policies? Evidence from the U. S. House," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(3), pages 807-859, August.
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