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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" 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 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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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11236.

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Date of creation: Apr 2005
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Publication status: published as Aghion, Philippe, Alberto Alesina, and Francesco Trebbi. "Electoral Rules and Minority Representation in U.S. Cities." The Quarterly Journal of Economics 123, 1 (February 2008): 325-357.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11236

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  1. Aghion, Philippe & Alesina, Alberto F & Trebbi, Francesco, 2002. "Endogenous Political Institutions," CEPR Discussion Papers 3473, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & Caroline Hoxby, 2000. "Political Jurisdictions in Heterogeneous Communities," NBER Working Papers 7859, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jacob L. Vigdor, 1997. "The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto," NBER Working Papers 5881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Casey B. Mulligan & Ricard Gil & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2004. "Do democracies have different public policies than non-democracies?," Discussion Papers 0304-14, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  5. Imbs, Jean & Wacziarg, Romain, 2000. "Stages of Diversification," CEPR Discussion Papers 2642, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Henning Bohn & Robert P. Inman, . "Balanced Budget Rules and Public Deficits: Evidence from the U.S. States (Reprint 060)," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 10-96, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  7. Philippe Aghion & Patrick Bolton, 2003. "Incomplete Social Contracts," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(1), pages 38-67, 03.
  8. Arellano, Manuel & Bond, Stephen, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(2), pages 277-97, April.
  9. Voigt, Stefan, 1997. " Positive Constitutional Economics: A Survey," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 90(1-4), pages 11-53, March.
  10. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2005. "The Economic Effects of Constitutions," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262661926, December.
  11. James M. Poterba, 1993. "State Responses to Fiscal Crisis: The Effects of Budgetary Institutionsand Politics," NBER Working Papers 4375, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Bohn, Henning & Inman, Robert P., 1996. "Balanced-budget rules and public deficits: evidence from the U.S. states," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 13-76, December.
  13. Reza Baqir, 2002. "Districting and Government Overspending," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1318-1354, December.
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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 2108, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 2007. "Bureaucrats or Politicians? Part II: Multiple Policy Tasks," Levine's Working Paper Archive 321307000000000875, David K. Levine.
  3. Guriev, Sergei & Sonin, Konstantin, 2009. "Dictators and oligarchs: A dynamic theory of contested property rights," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 1-13, February.
  4. Fernando Ferreira & Joseph Gyourko, 2007. "Do Political Parties Matter? Evidence from U.S. Cities," NBER Working Papers 13535, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.

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