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Term Length and Political Performance

  • Ernesto Dal Bó
  • Martín Rossi

We evaluate the effects of the duration of legislative terms on the performance of legislators. We exploit a natural experiment in the Argentine House of Representatives where term lengths were assigned randomly. Results for various objective measures of legislative output show that longer terms enhance legislative performance. We use a second experiment in the Argentine Senate to determine whether our results are specific to a particular chamber and a particular time. The results from the Senate reinforce the idea that longer terms enhance legislative productivity. Our results highlight limits to classic theories of electoral discipline (Barro 1973, Ferejohn 1986) predicting that shorter terms, by tightening accountability, will incentivize hard work by politicians. We discuss and test possible explanations. Our results suggest that the "accountability logic" is overcome by an "investment logic."

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14511.

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Date of creation: Nov 2008
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Publication status: published as Term Length and The Effort of Politicians, Review of Economic Studies 78(4), October 2011, (with Martín Rossi)
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14511
Note: POL
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