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Electoral thresholds and political outcomes: Quasi-experimental evidence from a reform in Germany


  • Baskaran, Thushyanthan
  • Lopes da Fonseca, Mariana


In 2001, the state parliament of the German federal state of Hesse abolished a 5 percent legal electoral threshold for local elections. This reform had a stronger effect on municipalities with larger councils because implicit electoral thresholds decrease with council size. Exploiting discontinuities in a state law that exogenously maps population to council size, we implement a difference in discontinuity design to study the political consequences of abolishing an electoral threshold. The dataset covers all 426 Hessian municipalities over the period 1989-2011. Our results suggest that the seat and vote shares of small parties increased in municipalities that were affected more strongly by the abolishment. In addition, municipalit ies exposed to stronger treatments reduced their council size, presumably to limit political competition.

Suggested Citation

  • Baskaran, Thushyanthan & Lopes da Fonseca, Mariana, 2013. "Electoral thresholds and political outcomes: Quasi-experimental evidence from a reform in Germany," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 177, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:cegedp:177

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Amy Finkelstein, 2007. "The Aggregate Effects of Health Insurance: Evidence from the Introduction of Medicare," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 1-37.
    3. Veronica Grembi & Tommaso Nannicini & Ugo Troiano, 2011. "Policy Responses to Fiscal Restraints: A Difference-in-Discontinuities Design," Working Papers 397, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    4. Fiva, Jon H. & Folke, Olle, 2016. "Mechanical and Psychological Effects of Electoral Reform," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(02), pages 265-279, April.
    5. Peter Egger & Marko Koethenbuerger, 2010. "Government Spending and Legislative Organization: Quasi-experimental Evidence from Germany," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 200-212, October.
    6. McCrary, Justin, 2008. "Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 698-714, February.
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:76:y:1982:i:04:p:753-766_18 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Baskaran, Thushyanthan, 2012. "The flypaper effect: evidence from a natural experiment in Hesse," MPRA Paper 37144, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    Cited by:

    1. Thushyanthan Baskaran & Zohal Hessami, 2017. "Political alignment and intergovernmental transfers in parliamentary systems: evidence from Germany," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 171(1), pages 75-98, April.

    More about this item


    electoral rules; electoral thresholds; voting;

    JEL classification:

    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation

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