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Electoral Rules and Minority Representation in U.S. Cities

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  • Trebbi, Francesco
  • Aghion, Philippe
  • Alesina, Alberto

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Trebbi, Francesco & Aghion, Philippe & Alesina, Alberto, 2008. "Electoral Rules and Minority Representation in U.S. Cities," Scholarly Articles 4551793, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:4551793
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2009. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521671422, April.
    2. Hummel, Patrick & Holden, Richard, 2014. "Optimal primaries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 64-75.
    3. Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 2001. "Incentives and Political Economy," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199248681.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen Coate & Brian Knight, 2011. "Government Form and Public Spending: Theory and Evidence from US Municipalities," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 82-112, August.
    2. Baskaran, Thushyanthan & Lopes da Fonseca, Mariana, 2016. "Electoral competition and endogenous political institutions: Quasi-experimental evidence from Germany," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 43-61.
    3. Alberto Alesina & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2011. "Segregation and the Quality of Government in a Cross Section of Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 1872-1911, August.
    4. Elizabeth U. Cascio, 2014. "Valuing the Vote: The Redistribution of Voting Rights and State Funds following the Voting Rights Act of 1965," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 379-433.
    5. Alesina, Alberto & Stella, Andrea, 2010. "The Politics of Monetary Policy," Handbook of Monetary Economics,in: Benjamin M. Friedman & Michael Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Monetary Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 18, pages 1001-1054 Elsevier.
    6. Marco Battaglini & Lydia Mechtenberg, 2014. "When do conflicting parties share political power? An experimental study," Working Papers 057-2014, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Econometric Research Program..
    7. Guriev, Sergei & Sonin, Konstantin, 2009. "Dictators and oligarchs: A dynamic theory of contested property rights," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 1-13, February.
    8. repec:eee:macchp:v2-2599 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Justesen, Mogens K., 2012. "Democracy, dictatorship, and disease: Political regimes and HIV/AIDS," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 373-389.
    10. Drometer, Marcus & Rincke, Johannes, 2014. "Electoral competition and endogenous barriers to entry," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 253-262.
    11. Engelmann, Dirk & Grüner, Hans Peter, 2013. "Tailored Bayesian Mechanisms: Experimental Evidence from Two-Stage Voting Games," CEPR Discussion Papers 9544, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. Rodriguez, Javier M. & Geronimus, Arline T. & Bound, John & Dorling, Danny, 2015. "Black lives matter: Differential mortality and the racial composition of the U.S. electorate, 1970–2004," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 136, pages 193-199.
    13. Martin Ardanaz & Carlos Scartascini, 2011. "Why Don’t We Tax the Rich? Inequality, Legislative Malapportionment, and Personal Income Taxation around the World," Research Department Publications 4724, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.

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