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Choosing Electoral rules: Theory and Evidence from US Cities

  • Philippe Aghion
  • Alberto Alesina
  • Francesco Trebbi

This paper studies the choice of electoral rules, 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 US cities (particularly in the South), we show why majorities tend to adopt ”winner-take-all” citywide 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 to concede 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.

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Paper provided by Harvard - Institute of Economic Research in its series Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers with number 2065.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:2065
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  1. Voigt, Stefan, 1997. " Positive Constitutional Economics: A Survey," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 90(1-4), pages 11-53, March.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & Caroline Hoxby, 2000. "Political Jurisdictions in Heterogeneous Communities," NBER Working Papers 7859, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Imbs, Jean & Wacziarg, Romain, 2000. "Stages of Diversification," CEPR Discussion Papers 2642, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Philippe Aghion & Albero Alesina & Francesco Trebbi, 2002. "Endogenous Political Institutions," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1957, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  5. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2005. "The Economic Effects of Constitutions," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262661926, June.
  6. Rohini Pande, 2002. "Can mandated political representation increase policy influence for disadvantaged minorities? Theory and evidence from India," Discussion Papers 0102-62, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  7. Casey B. Mulligan & Xavier Sala-i-Martin & Ricard Gil, 2003. "Do Democracies Have Different Public Policies than Nondemocracies?," NBER Working Papers 10040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Poterba, James M, 1994. "State Responses to Fiscal Crises: The Effects of Budgetary Institutions and Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 799-821, August.
  9. Henning Bohn & Robert P. Inman, . "Balanced Budget Rules and Public Deficits: Evidence from the U.S. States (Reprint 060)," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 10-96, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  10. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jacob L. Vigdor, 1997. "The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto," NBER Working Papers 5881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Henning Bohn & Robert P. Inman, 1996. "Balanced Budget Rules and Public Deficits: Evidence from the U.S. States," NBER Working Papers 5533, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Reza Baqir, 2002. "Districting and Government Overspending," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1318-1354, December.
  13. Aghion, Philippe & Bolton, Patrick, 2003. "Incomplete Social Contracts," Scholarly Articles 4554123, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  14. Epple, Dennis & Romer, Thomas, 1991. "Mobility and Redistribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 828-58, August.
  15. Arellano, Manuel & Bond, Stephen, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(2), pages 277-97, April.
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