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Electoral Rules and Minority Representation in U.S. Cities

  • Francesco Trebbi

    (Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago)

  • Philippe Aghion

    (Department of Economics, Harvard University and Canadian Institute for Advanced Research)

  • Alberto Alesina

    (Department of Economics, Harvard University, National Bureau of Economic Research, and Centre for Economic Policy Research)

This paper studies the choice of electoral rules and in particular the question of minority representation. Majorities tend to disenfranchise minorities through strategic manipulation of electoral rules. With the aim of explaining changes in electoral rules adopted by U.S. cities, particularly in the South, we show why majorities tend to adopt "winner-take-all" city-wide rules (at-large elections) in response to an increase in the size of the minority when the minority they are facing is relatively small. In this case, for the majority it is more effective to leverage on its sheer size instead of risking conceding representation to voters from minority-elected districts. However, as the minority becomes larger (closer to a fifty-fifty split), the possibility of losing the whole city induces the majority to prefer minority votes to be confined in minority-packed districts. Single-member district rules serve this purpose. We show empirical results consistent with these implications of the model in a novel data set covering U.S. cities and towns from 1930 to 2000. (c) 2008 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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File URL: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1162/qjec.2008.123.1.325
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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 123 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 325-357

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:1:p:325-357
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  1. Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 2000. "Incentives and Political Economy," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198294245, March.
  2. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521855266 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Hummel, Patrick & Holden, Richard, 2014. "Optimal primaries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 64-75.
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