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Why Do Incumbent Senators Win? Evidence from a Dynamic Selection Model

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  • Gautam Gowrisankaran
  • Matthew F. Mitchell
  • Andrea Moro

Abstract

Since 1914, incumbent U.S. senators running for reelection have won almost 80% of the time. We investigate why incumbents win so often. We allow for three potential explanations for the incumbency advantage: selection, tenure, and challenger quality, which are separately identified using histories of election outcomes following an open seat election. We specify a dynamic model of voter behavior that allows for these three effects, and structurally estimate the parameters of the model using U.S. Senate data. We find that tenure effects are negative or small. We also find that incumbents face weaker challengers than candidates running for open seats. If incumbents faced challengers as strong as candidates for open seats, the incumbency advantage would be cut in half.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10748.

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Date of creation: Sep 2004
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10748

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  1. Daniel Diermeier & Michael Keane & Antonio Merlo, 2002. "A Political Economy Model of Congressional Careers," PIER Working Paper Archive, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania 04-037, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Sep 2004.
  2. 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.
  3. Thierry Magnac & David Thesmar, 2002. "Identifying Dynamic Discrete Decision Processes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 801-816, March.
  4. Keane, Michael P & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1997. "The Career Decisions of Young Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(3), pages 473-522, June.
  5. David S. Lee, 2001. "The Electoral Advantage to Incumbency and Voters' Valuation of Politicians' Experience: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis of Elections to the U.S..," NBER Working Papers 8441, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. John Patty & Roberto Weber, 2007. "Letting the good times roll: A theory of voter inference and experimental evidence," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 130(3), pages 293-310, March.
  2. Gautam Gowrisankaran & Matthew F. Mitchell & Andrea Moro, 2008. "Electoral Design and Voter Welfare from the U.S. Senate: Evidence from a Dynamic Selection Model," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(1), pages 1-17, January.
  3. Hiroyuki Kasahara & Katsumi Shimotsu, 2006. "Nonparametric Identification and Estimation of Finite Mixture Models of Dynamic Discrete Choices," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics 20065, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  4. Aragonès, Enriqueta & Sánchez-Pagés, Santiago, 2010. "The disadvantage of winning an election," SIRE Discussion Papers, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE) 2010-21, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
  5. Enriqueta Aragonès & Santiago Sánchez-Pagés, 2010. "The disadvantage of winning an election," UFAE and IAE Working Papers, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC) 811.10, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).

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