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Electoral rules and minority representation in U.S. cities

Trebbi, F.; Aghion, P.; Alesina, A.; (2008) Electoral rules and minority representation in U.S. cities. Quarterly Journal of Economics , 123 (1) pp. 325-357. 10.1162/qjec.2008.123.1.325. Green open access


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This paper studies the choice of electoral rules and 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 U.S. 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 conceding 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 in a novel data set covering U.S. cities and towns from 1930 to 2000.

Type: Article
Title: Electoral rules and minority representation in U.S. cities
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1162/qjec.2008.123.1.325
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/qjec.2008.123.1.325
Language: English
Additional information: © 2008 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Keywords: Election, minorities, representation, voter, votes
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Dept of Economics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/17714
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