Term Length and Political Performance
We evaluate the effects of the duration of legislative terms on the performance of legislators. We exploit a natural experiment in the Argentine House of Representatives where term lengths were assigned randomly. Results for various objective measures of legislative output show that longer terms enhance legislative performance. We use a second experiment in the Argentine Senate to determine whether our results are specific to a particular chamber and a particular time. The results from the Senate reinforce the idea that longer terms enhance legislative productivity. Our results highlight limits to classic theories of electoral discipline (Barro 1973, Ferejohn 1986) predicting that shorter terms, by tightening accountability, will incentivize hard work by politicians. We discuss and test possible explanations. Our results suggest that the "accountability logic" is overcome by an "investment logic."
We would like to thank Pedro Dal Bó, Erik Eyster, Claudio Ferraz, Jeffry Frieden, Sebastián Galiani, Martín Gonzalez-Eiras, Neil Malhotra, Ernesto Schargrodsky, Ken Shepsle, Mariano Tommasi, and participants at various seminars and conferences for valuable comments and suggestions. We are deeply grateful to legislators Patricia Bullrich, Jesús Rodríguez, Aldo Neri, Mario Negri, and Jorge Young who provided expert advice on the functioning of the Argentine Congress. Juan Escobar and Esteban Petruzzello provided excellent research assistance. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.