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On the Importance of Inequality in Politics: Duplicate Bills and Bill Co-sponsorship in the U.S. House of Representatives


  • David N. Laband
  • Richard Alan Seals, Jr.


In this paper, we attempt to provide an economic explanation for the adoption of bill co-sponsorship by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1967. We demonstrate empirically that key features of legislative production prior to 1967 (when House members’ support for a bill was indicated by introduction of duplicate bills) and post-1967 (when political support for a bill is indicated by co-sponsorship) are strikingly similar. Specifically, the raw number of supporters of a bill, whether indicated by duplicate bills or by co-sponsorship, is not nearly as critical to advancement of that bill through the House of Representatives as is the political power of the individual who introduces it and those who support it. The relative sizes of these effects are highly consistent over time. In effect, this finding means that the underlying factors of importance in the House’s legislative production function did not change significantly when bill co-sponsorship was adopted. This suggests that the change in operating procedure may have been driven by an intra-chamber struggle to control the legislative outcomes. We present empirical evidence that is highly consistent with this hypothesis - - adoption of bill co-sponsorship in 1967 coincides exactly with the post-World War II peak in a concentration ratio of legislation passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to the 90th Congress, there was a more-or-less steady increase in concentration of legislation passed by the five busiest committees that peaked at over 0.4 in the 90th Congress and then declined precipitously to under 0.15 by the 93rd Congress.

Suggested Citation

  • David N. Laband & Richard Alan Seals, Jr., 2014. "On the Importance of Inequality in Politics: Duplicate Bills and Bill Co-sponsorship in the U.S. House of Representatives," Auburn Economics Working Paper Series auwp2014-05, Department of Economics, Auburn University.
  • Handle: RePEc:abn:wpaper:auwp2014-05

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thomas, Scott & Grofman, Bernard, 1993. "The Effects of Congressional Rules about Bill Cosponsorship on Duplicate Bills: Changing Incentives for Credit Claiming," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 75(1), pages 93-98, January.
    2. Klein, Benjamin & Crawford, Robert G & Alchian, Armen A, 1978. "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 297-326, October.
    3. Shaun M. Tanger & Richard Alan Seals Jr. & David N. Laband, 2011. "Does Bill Co-sponsorship Affect Campaign Contributions?: Evidence from the U.S. House of Representatives, 2000-2008," Auburn Economics Working Paper Series auwp2011-09, Department of Economics, Auburn University.
    4. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-641, August.
    5. Tanger, Shaun M. & Laband, David N., 2009. "An empirical analysis of bill co-sponsorship in the U.S. Senate: The Tree Act of 2007," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 260-265, July.
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    More about this item


    Bill Co-Sponsorship; Bill Sponsorship; Bills Reported out of Committee; U.S. House of Representatives; Identical Bill Introduction; Credit Claiming;

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General

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