February 2008

IZA DP No. 3348: Electoral Rules and Politicians’ Behavior: A Micro Test

published in: American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2011, 3 (3), 144-174

Theory predicts that the majoritarian electoral system should produce more targeted redistribution and lower politicians’ rents than proportional representation. We test these predictions using micro data for the mixed-member Italian House of Representatives, which allow us to sidestep the identification problems of previous studies based on country-level data. In particular, we address the nonrandom selection into different electoral systems by exploiting a distinctive feature of the Italian two-tier elections from 1994 to 2006: candidates could run for both the majoritarian and the proportional tier, but if they won in both tiers they had to accept the majoritarian seat. Focusing on elections decided by a narrow margin allows us to generate quasi-experimental estimates of the impact of the electoral rule. The main results confirm theoretical predictions, as majoritarian representatives put forward a higher proportion of bills targeted at local areas and show lower absenteeism rates than their proportional colleagues.