Electoral rules and political selection: Theory and evidence from a field experiment in Afghanistan

Andrew Beath, Fotini Christia, Georgy Egorov, Ruben Enikolopov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Voters commonly face a choice between competent candidates and those with policy preferences similar to their own. This article explores how electoral rules, such as district magnitude, mediate this trade-off and affect the composition of representative bodies and the quality of policy outcomes. We show formally that anticipation of bargaining over policy causes voters in elections with multiple single-member districts to prefer candidates with polarized policy positions over more competent candidates. Results from a unique field experiment in Afghanistan are consistent with these predictions. Specifically, representatives selected by elections with a single multi-member district are better educated and exhibit less extreme policy preferences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberrdw018
Pages (from-to)932-968
Number of pages37
JournalReview of Economic Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Afghanistan
  • Competence
  • District magnitude
  • Electoral rules
  • Field experiment
  • Legislative bargaining
  • Local public goods
  • Polarization
  • Political selection
  • Quality of politicians

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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