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Policy Choices in Assembly versus Representative Democracy : Evidence from Swiss Communes

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  • Patricia Funk

    () (Department of Economics, Universita della Svizzera italiana)

  • Stephan Litschig

    () (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Tokyo, Japan)

Abstract

This paper investigates whether the form of the legislative institution - assembly versus parliament - affects the level and composition of local public expenditure. We use two research designs in distinct samples of Swiss communes. Our event study analysis focuses on medium-sized and mostly German-speaking communes that switched from assembly to parliament from 1945 to 2010. The regression discontinuity analysis is based on small communes from a French-speaking canton over the period 1986-2005 and exploits a cutoff in local population. Event study estimates suggest that parliament adoption increases total spending by about 6 percent and that this increase is driven mostly by general administration and education spending. In contrast, regression discontinuity estimates are too noisy to be informative. To understand the mechanism at play, we run a survey among assembly participants and document a sizeable under-representation of 20- to 40-year-olds as well as of women in assemblies compared to both the electorate and to voters. Switching from assembly democracy to parliament in our setting therefore seems to increase the representation of two demographics that are known for their relatively strong preferences for education spending.

Suggested Citation

  • Patricia Funk & Stephan Litschig, 2018. "Policy Choices in Assembly versus Representative Democracy : Evidence from Swiss Communes," GRIPS Discussion Papers 17-14, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ngi:dpaper:17-14
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Celeste K. Carruthers & Marianne H. Wanamaker, 2015. "Municipal Housekeeping: The Impact of Women’s Suffrage on Public Education," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 50(4), pages 837-872.
    2. David S. Lee & Thomas Lemieux, 2010. "Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 281-355, June.
    3. Cattaneo, M. Alejandra & Wolter, Stefan C., 2009. "Are the elderly a threat to educational expenditures?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 225-236, June.
    4. Graziella Bertocchi & Arcangelo Dimico & Francesco Lancia & Alessia Russo, 2017. "Youth Enfranchisement, Political Responsiveness, and Education Expenditure: Evidence from the U.S," Department of Economics 0118, University of Modena and Reggio E., Faculty of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:104:y:2010:i:02:p:243-267_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Bertocchi, Graziella & Dimico, Arcangelo & Lancia, Francesco & Russo, Alessia, 2017. "Youth Enfranchisement, Political Responsiveness and Education Expenditure: Evidence from the U.S," IZA Discussion Papers 11082, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Guido Imbens & Karthik Kalyanaraman, 2012. "Optimal Bandwidth Choice for the Regression Discontinuity Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(3), pages 933-959.
    8. Raghabendra Chattopadhyay & Esther Duflo, 2004. "Women as Policy Makers: Evidence from a Randomized Policy Experiment in India," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1409-1443, September.
    9. Carlos Sanz, 2017. "Direct democracy and government size: evidence from Spain," Working Papers 1709, Banco de España;Working Papers Homepage.
    10. Jeffrey S. Rosenthal & Martin J. Osborne & Matthew A. Turner, 2000. "Meetings with Costly Participation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 927-943, September.
    11. Patricia Funk, 2010. "Social Incentives and Voter Turnout: Evidence from the Swiss Mail Ballot System," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(5), pages 1077-1103, September.
    12. Figlio, David N. & Fletcher, Deborah, 2012. "Suburbanization, demographic change and the consequences for school finance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 1144-1153.
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    Cited by:

    1. Anna Maria Koukal & Reiner Eichenberger, 2017. "Explaining a Paradox of Democracy: The Role of Institutions in Female Enfranchisement," CREMA Working Paper Series 2017-13, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).

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