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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.

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  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Clemens Puppe & Attila Tasnádi, 2015. "Axiomatic districting," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 44(1), pages 31-50, January.
    2. Bracco, Emanuele, 2013. "Optimal districting with endogenous party platforms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 1-13.
    3. Rafael Hortala-Vallve & Hannes Mueller, 2015. "Primaries: the unifying force," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 163(3), pages 289-305, June.
    4. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2010. "Strategic Redistricting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1616-1641, September.
    5. Maria Gallego & David Scoones, 2011. "Intergovernmental negotiation, willingness to compromise, and voter preference reversals," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 36(3), pages 591-610, April.
    6. Francesco De Sinopoli & Leo Ferraris & Giovanna Iannantuoni, 2013. "Electing a parliament," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 40(3), pages 715-737, March.
    7. Timothy Besley & Ian Preston, 2007. "Electoral Bias and Policy Choice: Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1473-1510.
    8. Bombardini, Matilde & Trebbi, Francesco, 2011. "Votes or money? Theory and evidence from the US Congress," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 587-611, August.
    9. Kóczy Á., László & Biró, Péter & Sziklai, Balázs, 2012. "Választókörzetek igazságosan?
      [Fair apportionment of voting districts in Hungary]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(11), pages 1165-1186.
    10. Bernecker, Andreas, 2014. "Do politicians shirk when reelection is certain? Evidence from the German parliament," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 55-70.
    11. Galasso, Vincenzo & Nannicini, Tommaso, 2011. "Competing on Good Politicians," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 105(01), pages 79-99, February.
    12. Pei Li & Yi Lu & Tuan-Heww Sng, 2017. "Artificial Administrative Boundaries: Evidence from China," CEH Discussion Papers 09, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    13. Corbett A. Grainger, 2010. "Redistricting and Polarization: Who Draws the Lines in California?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(3), pages 545-567.
    14. Revelli, Federico, 2008. "Performance competition in local media markets," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(7), pages 1585-1594, July.
    15. Justin Svec & James Hamilton, 2015. "Endogenous voting weights for elected representatives and redistricting," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 434-441, December.
    16. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2007. "Competitive Redistricting," Levine's Bibliography 321307000000000748, UCLA Department of Economics.
    17. Che, Jiahua & Chung, Kim-Sau & Lu, Yang K., 2017. "Decentralization and political career concerns," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 201-210.
    18. Patrick Hummel & Brian Knight, 2015. "Sequential Or Simultaneous Elections? A Welfare Analysis," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 56, pages 851-887, August.
    19. Tukiainen, Janne & Saarimaa, Tuukka & Hyytinen, Ari, 2013. "Seat competitiveness and redistricting: Evidence from voting on municipal mergers," Working Papers 38, Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT).
    20. Bernecker, Andreas, 2013. "Do Politicians Shirk when Reelection Is Certain? Evidence from the German Parliament," Working Papers 13-09, University of Mannheim, Department of Economics.
    21. Jaitman, Laura, 2013. "The causal effect of compulsory voting laws on turnout: Does skill matter?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 79-93.
    22. Halberstam, Yosh & Montagnes, B. Pablo, 2015. "Presidential coattails versus the median voter: Senator selection in US elections," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 40-51.
    23. Hyytinen, Ari & Saarimaa, Tuukka & Tukiainen, Janne, 2014. "Electoral vulnerability and size of local governments: Evidence from voting on municipal mergers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 193-204.
    24. Thomas Gilligan & John Matsusaka, 2006. "Public choice principles of redistricting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 129(3), pages 381-398, December.
    25. Tim Willems, 2014. "You Can Go Your Own Way: Explaining Partisan Support for Independence," Economics Series Working Papers 717, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

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