nep-pol New Economics Papers
on Positive Political Economics
Issue of 2011‒03‒05
six papers chosen by
Eugene Beaulieu
University of Calgary

  1. The Right Look: Conservative Politicians Look Better and Their Voters Reward it By Niclas Berggren; Henrik Jordahl; Panu Poutvaara
  2. Optimal Districting with Endogenous Party Platforms By Emanuele Bracco
  3. Coalition formation and political decision making: Evidence from Finnish municipal mergers By Janne Tukiainen; Tuukka Saarimaa
  4. Political Regimes, Institutions and the Nature of Tax Systems By Stanely L. Winer; Lawrence W. Kenny; Walter Hettich
  5. Income and Ideology: How Personality Traits, Cognitive Abilities, and Education Shape Political Attitudes By Rebecca Morton; Jean-Robert Tyran; Erik Wengström
  6. Decentralization (Localization) & Corruption: New Cross-Country Evidence By Maksym Ivanyna; Anwar Shah

  1. By: Niclas Berggren; Henrik Jordahl; Panu Poutvaara
    Abstract: Previous research has established that good-looking political candidates win more votes. We extend this line of research by examining differences between parties on the left and on the right of the political spectrum. Our study combines data on personal votes in real elections with a web survey in which 2,513 non-Finnish respondents evaluated the facial appearance of 1,357 Finnish political candidates. We find that political candidates on the right are better looking in both municipal and parliamentary elections and that they have a larger beauty premium in municipal, but not in parliamentary, elections. As municipal candidates are relatively unknown, the beauty-premium gap indicates that voters – especially those to the right – use beauty as a cue for candidate ideology or quality in the municipal elections.
    JEL: D72 J45 J70
    Date: 2011–02
  2. By: Emanuele Bracco
    Abstract: This paper proposes a theory of socially optimal districting in a legislative-election model with endogenous party platforms. We generalize the model of Coate and Knight (2007), allowing parties to strategically condition their platforms on the districting. The socially optimal districting re ects the ideological leaning of the population, so that parties internalize voters' preferences in their policy platforms. The optimal seat-vote curve is unbiased when voters are risk-neutral, and -contrary to previous findings-biased against the largest partisan group when voters are risk-averse. The model is then calibrated by an econometric analysis of the elections of U.S. State legislators during the 1990s.
    Keywords: Districting, seat-vote curve, social planner, policy-motivated parties, office-motivated parties.
    Date: 2011
  3. By: Janne Tukiainen; Tuukka Saarimaa
    Abstract: This paper analyzes empirically the coalition formation of local governments. We introduce a novel econometric strategy involving choice based sampling from a spatial network to allow for multi-partner mergers in our empirical analysis. We apply our method to recent municipality mergers in Finland. The mergers were decided voluntarily by municipal councils but the central government promoted mergers through a subsidy scheme. Our main interest lies on the association of local politics with the merger decisions. Moreover, we are able to estimate the causal effect of the subsidy scheme on the merger decisions using a regression discontinuity design. We find that the local political environment is relevant for the merger decision making. The results are consistent with politicians? strategic behavior concerning private incentives on municipal employment possibilities and re-election. Furthermore, more concentrated political power at the local level seems to promote merging and different political parties hold different views concerning merging. The central government merger subsidy scheme has an effect on the type of mergers that took place. Overall, the results imply that local politics may hinder optimal coalition formation and that the central government may act as a corrective force by using an appropriate subsidy scheme.
    Keywords: Coalition formation, Local politics, Merger subsidy, Choice based sampling, Regression discontinuity design
    JEL: H72 H71 C35 H77
    Date: 2010–12–20
  4. By: Stanely L. Winer (Carleton University, CESifo and ICER); Lawrence W. Kenny (University of Florida); Walter Hettich (California State University, Fullerton)
    Abstract: In this paper, we assess the contributions of current research in political economy to provide answers to these questions, while also presenting some new statistical results on the relation between tax structure and political regimes. Our discussion of the literature is selective and is empirically oriented. Our primary goal is to give a sense of some of the empirical research possibilities that lie ahead.
    Date: 2010–05–01
  5. By: Rebecca Morton (Department of Politics, New York University); Jean-Robert Tyran (Department of Economics, University of Vienna); Erik Wengström (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)
    Abstract: We find that cognitive abilities, educational attainment, and some personality traits indirectly affect ideological preferences through changes in income. The effects of changes in personality traits on ideology directly and indirectly through income are in the same direction. However, the indirect effects of cognitive abilities and education often offset the direct effects of these variables on ideological preferences. That is, increases in cognitive abilities and education significantly increase income, which reduces the tendency of individuals to express leftist preferences. These indirect effects are in some cases sizeable relative to direct effects. The indirect effects of cognitive abilities through income overwhelm the direct effects such that increasing IQ increases rightwing preferences. For ideological preferences over economic policy the indirect effects of advanced education also overwhelm the direct effects, such that individuals with higher education are more likely to express rightwing preferences than those with lower education.
    Date: 2011–01
  6. By: Maksym Ivanyna (The World Bank); Anwar Shah (The World Bank)
    Abstract: This paper attempts to improve our understanding and measurement of decentralization and its relationship with corruption in a worldwide context. This is done by presenting the conceptual underpinnings of such relationship as well as using superior and more defensible measures of both decentralization in its various dimensions as well as corruption for a sample of 182 countries. It is the first paper that treats various tiers of local governments (below intermediate order of government) as the unit of comparative analysis. In contrast, previous analyses had erroneously focused on subnational governments as the unit of analysis which yields invalid cross-country comparisons. By pursuing rigorous econometric analysis, the paper demonstrates that decentralization, when properly measured to mean moving government closer to people by empowering of local governments, is shown to have significant negative effect on the incidence of corruption regardless of the choice of the estimation procedures or the measures of corruption used. In terms of various dimensions of decentralized local governance, political decentralization matters even when fiscal decentralization is controlled for. Further voice (political accountability) is empirically shown to be more important in combating corruption than exit options made available though competition among jurisdictions.
    Date: 2010–04–01

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