On the Validity of the Regression Discontinuity Design for Estimating Electoral Effects: New Evidence from Over 40,000 Close Races
London School of Economics
Columbia University; Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)
University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science
Andrew B. Hall
Harvard University - Department of Government
James M. Snyder Jr.
June 1, 2013
MIT Political Science Department Working Paper Series No 2013-26
Many papers use regression discontinuity (RD) designs that exploit "close" election outcomes in order to identify the effects of election results on various political and economic outcomes of interest. Several recent papers critique the use of RD designs based on close elections because of the potential for imbalance near the threshold that distinguishes winners from losers. In particular, for U.S. House elections during the post-war period, lagged variables such as incumbency status and previous vote share are significantly correlated with victory even in very close elections. This type of sorting naturally raises doubts about the key RD assumption that the assignment of treatment around the threshold is quasi-random. In this paper, we examine whether similar sorting occurs in other electoral settings, including the U.S. House in other time periods, statewide, state legislative, and mayoral races in the U.S., and national and/or local elections in a variety of other countries, including the U.K., Canada, Germany, France, Australia, India, and Brazil. No other case exhibits sorting. Evidently, the U.S. House during the post-war period is an anomaly.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
Keywords: regression discontinuity, electionworking papers series
Date posted: May 16, 2013 ; Last revised: June 18, 2013
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