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Socially Optimal Districting: A Theoretical and Empirical Exploration

  • Stephen Coate

    (Cornell University)

  • Brian Knight

    (Brown University)

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. (c) 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 122 (2007)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
Pages: 1409-1471

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:4:p:1409-1471
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  1. Myerson, Roger B., 1999. "Theoretical comparisons of electoral systems," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 671-697, April.
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  12. Prat, A., 1997. "Campaign Advertising and Voter Welfare," Discussion Paper 1997-118, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  13. Thomas Gilligan & John Matsusaka, 2006. "Public choice principles of redistricting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 129(3), pages 381-398, December.
  14. Stephen Coate & Brian Knight, 2005. "Socially Optimal Districting," NBER Working Papers 11462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. A. Lizzeri & Persico N., 1999. "Provision of Public Goods Under Alternative Electral Incentives," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 99f4, Economics Department, Princeton University.
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