Politics and Institutions


2024 - n° 158

Despite the efforts to reduce gender gaps, women are still under-represented among politicians. This paper suggests a new channel to explain female disadvantage in electoral success related to politicians’ ability to extend their electorate and attract voters from opponent parties. I rely on Swiss elections exploiting several features of this setting. This electoral system is based on open lists (voters can select candidates within their favorite party), and it allows cross-voting (voters can also select candidates from lists other than their favorite). Furthermore, electoral registers report the amount of preference votes collected by each politician separately by the voter’s favorite party. I show that individual preference votes are an essential driver of gender differences in candidates ’success. Interestingly, while no gender gap emerges in preferences cast by party supporters, male politicians collect more preference votes through cross-voting than females, i.e. they are more successful in persuading voters from competing parties. Motivated by several mechanisms, these new results bring salient policy implications concerning the impact of electoral systems on female representation.

Giulia Savio
Keywords: gender gap, preference votes, open lists, cross-voting, panachage, elections


2019 - n° 130
The aim of this paper is to study whether politicians manipulate fiscal policy to extract private rents. We focus on the local personal income tax (PIT), in the setting of Italian cities, which is a progressive instrument that allows mayors to set different rates to distinct wage groups. We exploit discontinuities in mayors’ salaries, that are based on population thresholds, to study whether mayors systematically apply lower rates to their own tax bracket. The main results document large rent-seeking activity in fiscal policy. First, we show that when mayors’s salary is exogenously located in the following tax bracket this receives a significantly lower tax rate than the previous bracket, compared to the control group. Second, we show that this rent-seeking activity is highly detrimental for the public treasury, with a considerable reduction in fiscal revenues. And finally, we document that the monetary gains for rent-seeker politicians are rather limited. These results suggest that when fiscal policy is prone to be manipulated politicians do not hesitate to engage in rent-seeking activities even in case of little profits.
Tommaso Giommoni
Keywords: rent-seeking,fiscal policy,personal income tax,efficiency wage,regression discontinuity design
2019 - n° 121
Proportional electoral rules favour the election of women with respect to majoritarian ones. This is consistent with the fact that in majoritarian systems personal exposure of the candidate is more relevant than in proportional systems and that women tend to be averse to such exposure. To test the effects of electoral rules on women’s representation and the quality of politicians, we collect panel data on the universe of Italian politicians from all levels of government over the period 1987-2013 and analyse an Italian reform which, in 2005, changed the electoral rule for national elections from (mostly) majoritarian to proportional, but did not affect subnational level elections. We find that this reform increased the number of women elected, while not decreasing the quality of politicians. We provide evidence of a negative selection effect under proportional rules: the elected women are not the best candidates and the quality of elected politicians could have increased (rather than remain constant) if the best female candidates had been elected. Our results are stronger in gender traditional regions, suggesting that culture matters in terms of how electoral rules affect female political representation.
Paola Profeta, Eleanor Woodhouse.
Keywords: Electoral reforms,Majoritarian,Proportional,Electoral Competition,Political Selection,Difference-in-Differences.


2018 - n° 126
If individuals become aware of their stereotypes, do they change their behavior? We study this question in the context of teachers’ bias in grading immigrants and native children in middle schools. Teachers give lower grades to immigrant students compared to natives who have the same performance on standardized, blindly-graded tests. We then relate differences in grading to teachers’ stereotypes, elicited through an Implicit Association Test (IAT). We find that math teachers with stronger stereotypes give lower grades to immigrants compared to natives with the same performance. Literature teachers do not differentially grade immigrants based on their own stereotypes. Finally, we share teachers’ own IAT score with them, randomizing the timing of disclosure around the date on which they assign term grades. All teachers informed of their stereotypes before term grading increase grades assigned to immigrants. Revealing stereotypes may be a powerful intervention to decrease discrimination, but it may also induce a reaction from individuals who were not acting in a biased way.
Alberto Alesina, Michela Carlana, Eliana La Ferrara, Paolo Pinotti
Keywords: immigrants,teachers,implicit stereotypes,IAT,bias in grading
2018 - n° 116
We examine the causal effect of legislative activity on private benefits, which have been largely neglected by previous research in legislative studies. By relying on a natural experiment in New Zealand, where randomly selected MPs are given the opportunity to propose legislation, we find evidence for a causal relation between proposing a (successful) bill and the private benefits MPs receive, in terms of gifts and payments for services. We conclude that the allocation of private benefits depends on legislative performance.
Massimo Morelli, Moritz Osnabrügge, Matia Vannoni.


2017 - n° 104
When exposed to similar migration flows, countries with different institutional systems may respond with different levels of openness. We study in particular the different responses determined by different electoral systems. We find that Winner Take All countries would tend to be more open than countries with PR when all other policies are kept constant, but, crucially, if we consider the endogenous differences in redistribution levels across systems, then the openness ranking may switch.
Massimo Morelli, Margherita Negri.
Keywords: Proportional representation,Median voter,Taxation,Occupational Choice,Migration,Walls.
2017 - n° 103
Although the European Union allows citizens from member countries to migrate freely within its confines to facilitate integration, it may be alienating public support for Europe. This paper investigates this by extending group threat theory to explain how internal migration influences mass public support using annual data from 1998 to 2014 across 15 Western European countries. We find that increases in the presence of foreigners from new member countries in Central and Eastern Europe have raised collective concerns about EU membership and there is some evidence that it may have eroded trust in European institutions as well. The results also show that this effect is exacerbated during an economic downturn. Our findings imply that collective opinion has responded ‘rationally’ to contextual changes in Europe’s internal migration patterns. The study concludes by discussing how group threat theory is relevant for understanding collective sentiment about the European Union.
Anne-Marie Jeannet
Keywords: Public Opinion,European Union,EU attitudes,immigration
2017 - n° 102
Political disaffection has intensified in democratic societies and European countries have witnessed a slow but steady decline of political trust over the past decades. We argue that this is due to, in part, to sustained immigration and was exacerbated by the onset of the global financial crisis. To test this, we employ a multi-level research design using micro attitudinal data from 17 European countries (2002-14). Our findings show a strong connection between immigration to Europe and the growing distrust that European citizens have for their country’s political institutions. This study provides new insight into how trends in immigration and the economic conditions of the last decade have reshaped the relationship between citizens and politics in Europe. Finally, the future implications for sociological theorizing around political trust is discussed.
Anne-Marie Jeannet
2017 - n° 100
This paper studies whether firms trade political contributions for public procurement contracts. Combining data on Lithuanian government tenders, corporate donors and firm characteristics, I examine how a ban on corporate contributions affects the awarding of procurement contracts to companies that donated in the past. Consistent with political favoritism, donors’ probability of winning falls by five percentage points as compared to that of non-donor firms after the ban. Evidence on bidding and victory margins suggests that corporate donors may receive auction-relevant information affecting procurement outcomes in their favor. I assess that tax payers save almost one percent of GDP thanks to the reform.
Audinga Baltrunaite
Keywords: political contributions,public procurement,contributing firms,rent-,seeking
2017 - n° 99
We define as populist a party that champions short-term protection policies without regard for their long-term costs. First, we study the demand for populism: we analyze the drivers of the populist vote using individual level data from multiple waves of surveys in Europe. Individual voting preferences are in uenced directly by different measures of economic insecurity and by the decline in trust in traditional parties. However, economic shocks that undermine voters' security and trust in parties also discourage voter turnout, thus mitigating the estimated demand of populism when ignoring this turnout selection. Economic insecurity affects intentions to vote for populist parties and turnout incentives also indirectly because it causes trust in parties to fall. Second, we study the supply side: we find that populist parties are more likely to appear when the drivers of demand for populism accumulate, and more so in countries with weak checks and balances and with higher political fragmentation. The non-populist parties' policy response is to reduce the distance of their platform from that of new populist entrants, thereby magnifying the aggregate supply of populist policies.
Luigi Guiso, Helios Herrera, Massimo Morelli, Tommaso Sonno
Keywords: voter participation,short term protection,anti-elite rhetoric