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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
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:2065
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  1. 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.
  2. Hoxby, Caroline & Baqir, Reza & Alesina, Alberto, 2004. "Political Jurisdictions in Heterogeneous Communities," Scholarly Articles 4552532, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Casey B. Mulligan & Ricard Gil & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2004. "Do Democracies Have Different Public Policies than Nondemocracies?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 51-74, Winter.
  4. Aghion, Philippe & Bolton, Patrick, 2003. "Incomplete Social Contracts," Scholarly Articles 4554123, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Aghion, Philippe & Alesina, Alberto & Trebbi, Francesco, 2004. "Endogenous Political Institutions," Scholarly Articles 4481498, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. 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.
  7. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jacob L. Vigdor, 1999. "The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(3), pages 455-506, June.
  8. Jean Imbs & Romain Wacziarg, 2003. "Stages of Diversification," Post-Print hal-00612598, HAL.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Epple, Dennis & Romer, Thomas, 1991. "Mobility and Redistribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 828-58, August.
  12. Voigt, Stefan, 1997. " Positive Constitutional Economics: A Survey," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 90(1-4), pages 11-53, March.
  13. repec:clu:wpaper:0102-62 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2005. "The Economic Effects of Constitutions," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262661926, June.
  15. Reza Baqir, 2002. "Districting and Government Overspending," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1318-1354, December.
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