NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Electoral Advantage to Incumbency and Voters' Valuation of Politicians' Experience: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis of Elections to the U.S...

David S. Lee

NBER Working Paper No. 8441
Issued in August 2001
NBER Program(s):   LS   PE

Using data on elections to the United States House of Representatives (1946-1998), this paper exploits a quasi-experiment generated by the electoral system in order to determine if political incumbency provides an electoral advantage - an implicit first-order prediction of principal-agent theories of politician and voter behavior. Candidates who just barely won an election (barely became the incumbent) are likely to be ex ante comparable in all other ways to candidates who barely lost, and so their differential electoral outcomes in the next election should represent a true incumbency advantage. The regression discontinuity analysis provides striking evidence that incumbency has a significant causal effect of raising the probability of subsequent electoral success - by about 0.40 to 0.45. Simulations - using estimates from a structural model of individual voting behavior - imply that about two-thirds of the apparent electoral success of incumbents can be attributed to voters' valuation of politicians' experience. The quasi-experimental analysis also suggest that heuristic 'fixed effects' and 'instrumental variable' modeling approaches would have led to misleading inferences in this context.

download in pdf format
   (565 K)

email paper

This paper is available as PDF (565 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8441

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Lee and Lemieux w14723 Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics
Gowrisankaran, Mitchell, and Moro w10748 Why Do Incumbent Senators Win? Evidence from a Dynamic Selection Model
Hahn, Todd, and van der Klaauw w7131 Evaluating the Effect of an Antidiscrimination Law Using a Regression-Discontinuity Design
Ludwig and Miller w11702 Does Head Start Improve Children's Life Chances? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design
Ferreira and Gyourko w13535 Do Political Parties Matter? Evidence from U.S. Cities
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us