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Party Polarization and the Business Cycle in the United States

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  • Edward López

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  • Carlos Ramírez

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Abstract

A large literature has studied the trend of greaterpolarization between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.This paper empirically examines the extent to which inflationand unemployment explain cyclical movements ofpolarization over time. An informal application of thestandard Downsian spatial competition model of partiesgenerates the following relationships, ceteris paribus: (1)inflation should be associated with policy convergence, (2)unemployment should be associated with polarization, (3) theeffect of unemployment on polarization should be larger inmagnitude than the effect of inflation on convergence, and (4)the effect of unemployment on polarization should be strongerin the House than in the Senate. We estimate the relationshipbetween vote records and business cycle conditions over the1947–1999 period using a GLS model with varying lags. Ourresults are broadly consistent with these business cyclehypotheses of polarization, though greater support is found inHouse data than in Senate data. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Suggested Citation

  • Edward López & Carlos Ramírez, 2004. "Party Polarization and the Business Cycle in the United States," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 121(3), pages 413-430, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:121:y:2004:i:3:p:413-430
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-004-1687-x
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    6. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
    7. Grier, Kevin B & McGarrity, Joseph P, 1998. "The Effect of Macroeconomic Fluctuations on the Electoral Fortunes of House Incumbents," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(1), pages 143-161, April.
    8. Lee, Hsiu-Yun & Wu, Jyh-Lin, 2001. "Mean Reversion of Inflation Rates: Evidence from 13 OECD Countries," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 477-487, July.
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    10. Mehmet Caner & Bruce E. Hansen, 2001. "Threshold Autoregression with a Unit Root," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1555-1596, November.
    11. Charles W. Calomiris & Eugene N. White, 1994. "The Origins of Federal Deposit Insurance," NBER Chapters,in: The Regulated Economy: A Historical Approach to Political Economy, pages 145-188 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stanley Winer & Michael Tofias & Bernard Grofman & John Aldrich, 2008. "Trending economic factors and the structure of Congress in the growth of government, 1930–2002," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 135(3), pages 415-448, June.
    2. Edward López & Carlos Ramírez, 2008. "Mr. Smith and the economy: the influence of economic conditions on individual legislator voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 136(1), pages 1-17, July.

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