Does Local Representation Matter?

58 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2019 Last revised: 5 Sep 2019

See all articles by Jon H. Fiva

Jon H. Fiva

Norwegian School of Management (BI) - Department of Economics

Askill Harkjerr Halse

University of Oslo; Institute of Transport Economics

Daniel M. Smith

Harvard University - Department of Government

Date Written: August 13, 2019


Unequal descriptive representation of local subconstituencies (municipalities) within electoral districts can potentially generate differences in voting behavior and substantive policy outcomes, but causal identification of this phenomenon is a challenge due to the nonrandom nature of candidate emergence and selection within parties. We use detailed candidate-level data from Norway to investigate the effect of local representation on three outcomes—local voting behavior, central-to-local redistribution, and mentions of municipalities in legislative speeches—applying a regression discontinuity design to marginal candidates to overcome the selection bias inherent in nomination decisions. We find that parties obtain higher support in subsequent elections in the hometowns of narrowly-elected candidates, pointing to a mobilizational benefit for parties of local descriptive representation. In terms of substantive representation, we find no evidence of increased redistributive benefits for represented municipalities, but a significant increase in mentions in legislative speeches relative to unrepresented municipalities.

Keywords: local representation, voter mobilization, distributive politics, legislative speech, regression discontinuity design, Norway

JEL Classification: D72

Suggested Citation

Fiva, Jon H. and Halse, Askill Harkjerr and Smith, Daniel M., Does Local Representation Matter? (August 13, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Jon H. Fiva

Norwegian School of Management (BI) - Department of Economics ( email )


Askill Harkjerr Halse

University of Oslo ( email )

PO Box 6706 St Olavs plass
Oslo, N-0317

Institute of Transport Economics ( email )


Daniel M. Smith (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States


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