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Socially Optimal Districting: A Theoretical and Empirical Exploration

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  • Stephen Coate
  • Brian Knight

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen Coate & Brian Knight, 2007. "Socially Optimal Districting: A Theoretical and Empirical Exploration," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1409-1471.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:4:p:1409-1471.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1162/qjec.2007.122.4.1409
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