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Electoral Design and Voter Welfare from the U.S. Senate: Evidence from a Dynamic Selection Model

  • Gautam Gowrisankaran

    (University of Arizona)

  • Matthew F. Mitchell

    (University of Toronto)

  • Andrea Moro

    (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

Since 1914, the U.S. Senate has been elected and incumbent senators allowed to run for reelection without limit. This differs from several other elected offices in the U.S., which impose term limits on incumbents. Term limits may harm the electorate if tenure is beneficial or if they force high quality candidates to retire but may also benefit the electorate if they cause higher quality candidates to run. We investigate how changes in electoral design affect voter utility by specifying and structurally estimating a dynamic model of voter decisions. We find that tenure effects for the U.S. Senate are negative or small and that incumbents face weaker challengers than candidates running for open seats. Because of this, term limits can significantly increase voter welfare. (Copyright: Elsevier)

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Article provided by Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics in its journal Review of Economic Dynamics.

Volume (Year): 11 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 1-17

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Handle: RePEc:red:issued:06-91
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  1. Daniel Diermeier & Michael Keane & Antonio Merlo, 2002. "A Political Economy Model of Congressional Careers," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-037, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Sep 2004.
  2. Smart, Michael & Sturm, Daniel M, 2004. "Term Limits and Electoral Accountability," CEPR Discussion Papers 4272, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Gautam Gowrisankaran & Matthew F. Mitchell & Andrea Moro, 2004. "Why Do Incumbent Senators Win? Evidence from a Dynamic Selection Model," NBER Working Papers 10748, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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, vol. 5(2), pages 133-46, May.
  5. Cox, Gary W. & Katz, Jonathan N., 1995. "Why Did The Incumbency Advantage In U.S. House Elections Grow?," Working Papers 939, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  6. Thierry Magnac & David Thesmar, 2002. "Identifying Dynamic Discrete Decision Processes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 801-816, March.
  7. Rust, John, 1987. "Optimal Replacement of GMC Bus Engines: An Empirical Model of Harold Zurcher," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(5), pages 999-1033, September.
  8. Heckman, James & Singer, Burton, 1984. "A Method for Minimizing the Impact of Distributional Assumptions in Econometric Models for Duration Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 271-320, March.
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