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Choosing Electoral rules: Theory and Evidence from US Cities

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  • Philippe Aghion
  • Alberto Alesina
  • Francesco Trebbi

Abstract

This paper studies the choice of electoral rules, 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 US cities (particularly in the South), we show why majorities tend to adopt ”winner-take-all” citywide 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 to concede 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.

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Paper provided by Harvard - Institute of Economic Research in its series Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers with number 2065.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:2065

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  1. Imbs, Jean & Wacziarg, Romain, 2000. "Stages of Diversification," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 2642, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  3. Philippe Aghion & Alberto Alesina & Francesco Trebbi, 2002. "Endogenous Political Institutions," NBER Working Papers 9006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  6. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & Caroline Hoxby, 2004. "Political Jurisdictions in Heterogeneous Communities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 348-396, April.
  7. Aghion, Philippe & Bolton, Patrick, 2003. "Incomplete Social Contracts," Scholarly Articles 4554123, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Casey B. Mulligan & Xavier Sala-i-Martin & Ricard Gil, 2003. "Do Democracies Have Different Public Policies than Nondemocracies?," NBER Working Papers 10040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Alberto Alesina & Silvia Ardagna & Francesco Trebbi, 2006. "Who adjusts and when? On the political economy of reforms," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research 2108, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. Paul A. Raschky & Hannelore Weck-Hannemann, . "Who is going to save us now? Bureaucrats, Politicians and Risky Tasks," Working Papers 2007-29, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  3. Alesina, Alberto & Tabellini, Guido, 2008. "Bureaucrats or politicians? Part II: Multiple policy tasks," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 426-447, April.
  4. Guriev, Sergei & Sonin, Konstantin, 2009. "Dictators and oligarchs: A dynamic theory of contested property rights," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 1-13, February.
  5. Fernando Ferreira & Joseph Gyourko, 2007. "Do Political Parties Matter? Evidence from U.S. Cities," NBER Working Papers 13535, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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