Redistricting and the Personal Vote: When Natural Experiments are Neither Natural nor Experiments

45 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2009 Last revised: 16 Dec 2009

See all articles by Jasjeet S. Sekhon

Jasjeet S. Sekhon

UC Berkeley

Rocio Titiunik

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science

Date Written: December 13, 2009

Abstract

Natural experiments are increasingly prominent in the social sciences. However, natural experiments often have more in common with traditional observational studies than with randomized experiments. We illustrate our argument by examining the case of using redistricting to estimate the personal vote. Strikingly, even if voters were redistricted randomly, previous uses of redistricting would not identify the causal effect of interest. We also find that the redistricting process is sufficiently nonrandom as to require significant covariate adjustment to overcome confounding. To overcome these difficulties, we propose a new design for estimating the personal vote and the partisan incumbency advantage that relies on the implementation of multiple redistricting plans. Analyzing data from U.S. House elections in California and Texas, we find that there is a large partisan incumbency advantage in both states but that the effect of the personal vote is zero in Texas and small in California.

Keywords: Incumbency, Redistricting, Potential Outcomes, Natural Experiments

JEL Classification: P16, D72

Suggested Citation

Sekhon, Jasjeet S. and Titiunik, Rocio, Redistricting and the Personal Vote: When Natural Experiments are Neither Natural nor Experiments (December 13, 2009). CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1443430 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1443430

Jasjeet S. Sekhon (Contact Author)

UC Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Rocio Titiunik

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-936-2939 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.umich.edu/~titiunik/

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