Disentangling Accountability and Competence in Elections: Evidence from U.S. Term Limits
Bueno de Mesquita, Ethan
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CitationAlt, James, Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, and Shanna Rose. 2011. Disentangling accountability and competence in elections: Evidence from U.S. term limits. Journal of Politics 73(1): 171-186.
AbstractWe exploit variation in U.S. gubernatorial term limits across states and time to empirically estimate two separate effects of elections on government performance. Holding tenure in ofﬁce constant, differences in performance by reelectioneligible and term-limited incumbents identify an accountability effect: reelection-eligible governors have greater incentives to exert costly effort on behalf of voters. Holding term-limit status constant, differences in performance by incumbents in different terms identify a competence effect: later-term incumbents are more likely to be competent both because they have survived reelection and because they have experience in ofﬁce. We show that economic growth is higher and taxes, spending, and borrowing costs are lower under reelection-eligible incumbents than under term-limited incumbents (accountability), and under reelected incumbents than under ﬁrst-term incumbents (competence), all else equal. In addition to improving our understanding of the role of elections in representative democracy, these ﬁndings resolve an empirical puzzle about the disappearance of the effect of term limits on gubernatorial performance over time.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:9639960
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