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Why Do Incumbent Senators Win? Evidence from a Dynamic Selection Model

Author

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  • Gautam Gowrisankaran
  • Matthew F. Mitchell
  • Andrea Moro

Abstract

Since 1914, incumbent U.S. senators running for reelection have won almost 80% of the time. We investigate why incumbents win so often. We allow for three potential explanations for the incumbency advantage: selection, tenure, and challenger quality, which are separately identified using histories of election outcomes following an open seat election. We specify a dynamic model of voter behavior that allows for these three effects, and structurally estimate the parameters of the model using U.S. Senate data. We find that tenure effects are negative or small. We also find that incumbents face weaker challengers than candidates running for open seats. If incumbents faced challengers as strong as candidates for open seats, the incumbency advantage would be cut in half.

Suggested Citation

  • Gautam Gowrisankaran & Matthew F. Mitchell & Andrea Moro, 2004. "Why Do Incumbent Senators Win? Evidence from a Dynamic Selection Model," NBER Working Papers 10748, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10748
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rust, John, 1987. "Optimal Replacement of GMC Bus Engines: An Empirical Model of Harold Zurcher," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(5), pages 999-1033, September.
    2. Daniel Diermeier & Michael Keane & Antonio Merlo, 2005. "A Political Economy Model of Congressional Careers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 347-373, March.
    3. Thierry Magnac & David Thesmar, 2002. "Identifying Dynamic Discrete Decision Processes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 801-816, March.
    4. Goffe, William L & Ferrier, Gary D & Rogers, John, 1992. "Simulated Annealing: An Initial Application in Econometrics," Computer Science in Economics & Management, Kluwer;Society for Computational Economics, vol. 5(2), pages 133-146, May.
    5. David S. Lee, 2001. "The Electoral Advantage to Incumbency and Voters' Valuation of Politicians' Experience: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis of Elections to the U.S..," NBER Working Papers 8441, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Keane, Michael P & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1997. "The Career Decisions of Young Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(3), pages 473-522, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hiroyuki Kasahara & Katsumi Shimotsu, 2006. "Nonparametric Identification and Estimation of Finite Mixture Models of Dynamic Discrete Choices," Working Papers 1092, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
    2. Luciana Moscoso Boedo, 2010. "Who Runs Against the Incumbent? Candidate Entry Decisions," Working papers DTE 494, CIDE, División de Economía.
    3. Gautam Gowrisankaran & Matthew F. Mitchell & Andrea Moro, 2008. "Electoral Design and Voter Welfare from the U.S. Senate: Evidence from a Dynamic Selection Model," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(1), pages 1-17, January.
    4. John Patty & Roberto Weber, 2007. "Letting the good times roll: A theory of voter inference and experimental evidence," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(3), pages 293-310, March.
    5. Aragonès, Enriqueta & Sánchez-Pagés, Santiago, 2010. "The disadvantage of winning an election," SIRE Discussion Papers 2010-21, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • C5 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling

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