Choosing Electoral Rules: Theory and Evidence from Us Cities

65 Pages Posted: 11 May 2005 Last revised: 10 Oct 2013

See all articles by Philippe Aghion

Philippe Aghion

College de France and London School of Economics and Political Science, Fellow; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Alberto F. Alesina

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Francesco Trebbi

Vancouver School of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 2005

Abstract

This paper studies the choice of electoral rules, in particular, the question of minority representation. Majorities tend to disenfranchise minorities through strategic manipulation of electoral rules. With the aim of explaining changes in electoral rules adopted by US cities (particularly in the South), we show why majorities tend to adopt "winner-take-all" city-wide rules (at-large elections) in response to an increase in the size of the minority when the minority they are facing is relatively small. In this case, for the majority it is more effective to leverage on its sheer size instead of risking to concede representation to voters from minority-elected districts. However, as the minority becomes larger (closer to a fifty-fifty split), the possibility of losing the whole city induces the majority to prefer minority votes to be confined in minority-packed districts. Single-member district rules serve this purpose. We show empirical results consistent with these implications of the model.

Suggested Citation

Aghion, Philippe and Alesina, Alberto F. and Trebbi, Francesco, Choosing Electoral Rules: Theory and Evidence from Us Cities (April 2005). NBER Working Paper No. w11236. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=697161

Philippe Aghion (Contact Author)

College de France and London School of Economics and Political Science, Fellow ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Alberto F. Alesina

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-8388 (Phone)
617-495-7730 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Francesco Trebbi

Vancouver School of Economics ( email )

University of British Columbia
6000 Iona Dr.
Vancouver Canada, BC V6T 1L4
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/ftrebbi/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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