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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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    Cited by:

    1. Anna Maria Koukal & Patricia Schafer & Reiner Eichenberger, 2020. "The Trade-off between Deepening and Broadening of Democracy Lessons from Youth Enfranchisement," CREMA Working Paper Series 2020-16, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    2. 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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