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FRIPRO-Fri prosjektstøtte

The dynamics of political selection

Alternative title: The dynamics of political selection

Awarded: NOK 12.3 mill.

Democracies around the world are being confronted with serious public policy challenges, including the increasingly global ramifications of economic and human interconnectedness related to migration and social justice, health threats from pandemic diseases, and climate change. The vast capabilities of the modern state allow political leaders to exert wide-ranging positive - and negative - influence over social and economic developments, and political parties are the core institutions responsible for recruiting, selecting, and promoting these leaders. It is therefore critically important to understand how parties organize this selection process, and how career incentives shape the identity and behavior of political elites. Our project aims to explore institutionalized selection within political parties as an ongoing process that occurs throughout a politician’s entire career. At the midpoint of our project timeline, our project team has successfully published articles in prominent economics journals, such as the Economic Journal and the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, as well as in distinguished political science journals, including the American Political Science Review and the Journal of Politics. Here are three noteworthy examples: 1) Using comprehensive administrative data from Norway, Fiva and King (forthcoming) find that women are less likely than men to secure elected office after their first child is born. The effects already manifest from the nomination stage, where mothers receive less favorable rankings on party lists relative to comparable fathers. This paper broadens our understanding of a fundamental social issue in political representation and demonstrates how motherhood even affects positively selected women. 2) Geys and Sørensen (forthcoming) document that politicians witness a significant income boost during their time in office (on average). In sharp contrast, leaving political office is on average associated with a substantial drop in income, which generally outweighs the income gain from entry into office. These findings suggest that most politicians face a net present value loss from holding office. 3) Using historical data from Norway, which transitioned from majoritarian rules to proportional representation just a few years after women won the vote, Teele (2022) show that proportional representation, which increases competition on average, produces a dramatic fall in the gender turnout gap, particularly in previously uncompetitive districts.

DYNAMICS aims to tackle one of the most important, yet methodologically challenging, topics in political science and political economy: selection into politics. The current project goes beyond questions of initial selection, which most of the existing research focus on, and ask questions like: Do all citizens of comparable quality have a fair chance of rising in the political hierarchy? Can members from the established elite, such as dynastic candidates, leapfrog career steps and seniority rules? Are members from underrepresented groups, such as women candidates, disadvantaged by these same career systems? How do parties incentivize candidates to induce effort? Are there important tradeoffs between seniority promotion norms and the quality of politicians? And what role does the popular press play? Our dynamic view of political selection forms the basis for three separate but synergetic work packages. DYNAMICS proposes to harness the opportunities provided by the recent availability of high-dimensional, “big” data combined with new techniques for approaching data analysis to isolate causal mechanisms. We will combine administrative population data with new data on candidates, election results, and social media data describing candidates’ campaign efforts. We will primarily rely on data from Norway, but we will also collect comparative data on key indicators, which will allow us to assess generalizability. Institutional variation over time and across parties and regions in Norway provides a unique opportunity to apply a comparative theoretical lens and employ sophisticated research designs to understand the nature and functioning of political selection in party-centered environments.

Publications from Cristin

Funding scheme:

FRIPRO-Fri prosjektstøtte

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