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Regression Discontinuity Designs Based on Population Thresholds: Pitfalls and Solutions

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  • Andrew C. Eggers
  • Ronny Freier
  • Veronica Grembi
  • Tommaso Nannicini

Abstract

In many countries, important features of municipal government (such as the electoral system, mayors' salaries, and the number of councillors) depend on whether the municipality is above or below arbitrary population thresholds. Several papers have used a regression discontinuity design (RDD) to measure the effects of these threshold-based policies on political and economic outcomes. Using evidence from France, Germany, and Italy, we highlight two common pitfalls that arise in exploiting population-based policies (confounded treatment and sorting) and we provide guidance for detecting and addressing these pitfalls. Even when these problems are present, population-threshold RDD may be the best available research design for studying the effects of certain policies and political institutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew C. Eggers & Ronny Freier & Veronica Grembi & Tommaso Nannicini, 2015. "Regression Discontinuity Designs Based on Population Thresholds: Pitfalls and Solutions," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1503, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp1503
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Christofzik, Désirée I. & Schneider, Benny, 2019. "Fiscal policy adjustments to budget shocks: Evidence from German municipalities," Working Papers 10/2019, German Council of Economic Experts / Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung.
    2. Hector Galindo Silva, 2018. "Political Openness and Armed Conflict: Evidence from Local Councils in Colombia," Vniversitas Económica 016721, Universidad Javeriana - Bogotá.
    3. Pamela Campa & Manuel Bagues, "undated". "Can Gender Quotas in Candidate Lists Empower Women? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," Working Papers 2017-06, Department of Economics, University of Calgary.
    4. Köppl–Turyna, Monika & Pitlik, Hans, 2018. "Do equalization payments affect subnational borrowing? Evidence from regression discontinuity," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 84-108.
    5. Halse, Askill H., 2016. "More for everyone: The effect of local interests on spending on infrastructure," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 41-56.
    6. Cipullo, Davide, 2018. "Runoff vs. Plurality: Does It Matter for Expenditures? Evidence from Italy," Working Paper Series 2018:13, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    7. Raphael Corbi & Elias Papaioannou & Paolo Surico, 2019. "Regional Transfer Multipliers," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(5), pages 1901-1934.
    8. Mattos, Enlinson & Santos, Pedro, 2018. "Correcting the population of Brazilian municipalities using the Jackknife," Brazilian Review of Econometrics, Sociedade Brasileira de Econometria - SBE, vol. 38(1), May.
    9. Dirk Foremny & Jordi Jofre-Monseny & Albert Solé-Ollé, 2015. "'Hold that Ghost': Using Notches to Identify Manipulation of Population-Based Grants," CESifo Working Paper Series 5578, CESifo.
    10. Baltrunaite, Audinga & Casarico, Alessandra & Profeta, Paola & Savio, Giulia, 2019. "Let the voters choose women," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 180(C).
    11. Gamberoni, Elisa & Gradeva, Katerina & Weber, Sebastian, 2016. "Firm responses to employment subsidies: a regression discontinuity approach to the 2012 Spanish labour market reform," Working Paper Series 1970, European Central Bank.
    12. Konstantinos Matakos & Riikka Savolainen & Orestis Troumpounis & Janne Tukiainen & Dimitrios Xefteris, 2018. "Electoral Institutions and Intraparty Cohesion," University of Cyprus Working Papers in Economics 09-2018, University of Cyprus Department of Economics.
    13. Vuković, Vuk, 2020. "Corruption and re-election: how much can politicians steal before getting punished?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 124-143.
    14. Luigi Marattin & Tommaso Nannicini & Francesco Porcelli, 2019. "Revenue vs Expenditure Based Fiscal Consolidation: The Pass-Trough from Federal Cuts to Local Taxes," Working Papers 644, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    15. Grytten, Jostein & Skau, Irene & Sørensen, Rune, 2020. "Who dies early? Education, mortality and causes of death in Norway," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 245(C).
    16. Fiorenza Venturini, 2018. "The Unintended Composition Effect of the Subnational Government Fiscal Rules: The Case of Italian Municipalities," Working papers 70, Società Italiana di Economia Pubblica.
    17. Shoag, Daniel & Tuttle, Cody & Veuger, Stan, 2017. "Rules versus Home Rule: Local Government Responses to Negative Revenue Shocks," Working Paper Series rwp17-037, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    18. Thushyanthan Baskaran & Mariana Lopes da Fonseca, 2016. "Electoral thresholds and political representation," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 169(1), pages 117-136, October.
    19. Lyytikäinen, Teemu & Tukiainen, Janne, 2019. "Are voters rational?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 230-242.
    20. Lassébie, Julie, 2020. "Gender quotas and the selection of local politicians: Evidence from French municipal elections," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C).
    21. Kristof De Witte & Benny Geys, 2015. "Strategic Housing Policy, Migration and Sorting around Population Thresholds," CESifo Working Paper Series 5639, CESifo.
    22. Danilo P. Souza & Marcos Y. Nakaguma, 2018. "Negative advertising and electoral rules: an empirical evaluation of the Brazilian case," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2018_10, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    regression discontinuity design; causal inference; sorting; population thresholds; institutional design;

    JEL classification:

    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General
    • H19 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Other
    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism

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