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Choosing Electoral Rules: Theory and Evidence from US Cities

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  • Philippe Aghion
  • Alberto Alesina
  • Francesco Trebbi

Abstract

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" 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 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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  • Philippe Aghion & Alberto Alesina & Francesco Trebbi, 2005. "Choosing Electoral Rules: Theory and Evidence from US Cities," NBER Working Papers 11236, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11236
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    Cited by:

    1. Alesina, Alberto & Tabellini, Guido, 2008. "Bureaucrats or politicians? Part II: Multiple policy tasks," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 426-447, April.
    2. Hao, Yu & Xue, Melanie Meng, 2017. "Friends from afar: The Taiping Rebellion, cultural proximity and primary schooling in the Lower Yangzi, 1850–1949," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 44-69.
    3. Paul A. Raschky & Hannelore Weck-Hannemann, "undated". "Who is going to save us now? Bureaucrats, Politicians and Risky Tasks," Working Papers 2007-29, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    4. Alberto Alesina & Silvia Ardagna & Francesco Trebbi, 2006. "Who adjusts and when? On the political economy of reforms," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2108, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    5. Fernando Ferreira & Joseph Gyourko, 2009. "Do Political Parties Matter? Evidence from U.S. Cities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 399-422.

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