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Proportionality Degree of Electoral Systems and Growth: A Panel Data Test

  • Maria Rosaria Alfano EMAIL logo and Anna Laura Baraldi
From the journal Review of Law & Economics


Previous empirical studies analysing the effect of electoral systems on growth lack unanimous answers as they miss-specify mixed systems in the empirical setting, that is, they neglect to consider the proportionality degree of electoral systems. This work supplies the missing answers by properly distinguishing the electoral rules using the Gallagher proportionality index. We estimate a non-linear relationship between the Gallagher proportionality index and the per capita GDP growth using cross-country panel data. Our findings show that the proportionality degree is significant for growth; mixed systems (characterized by an intermediate level of proportionality), combining the different advantages of both proportional and plurality systems, solve the problem of the accountability–responsiveness and the political–government instability trade-offs. As a consequence, they reach relatively higher growth rates with respect to more “extreme” electoral rules.

JEL Classification: C23; D72; H1


Table 4

Distribution of countries according to their electoral system, 1979–2010.

Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador El Salvador (since 1998), Finland, Guinea-Bissau (since 2007), Guyana, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy (since 1980–1993), Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova (since 1994), Mongolia 2009, Mozambique (since 1995), Namibia (since 1989), Netherlands, Nicaragua (since 1987), Norway, Paraguay, Peru (since 1981), Poland (since 1990–2006), Portugal, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova (since 1994), Mongolia 2009, Mozambique (since 1995), Namibia (since 1989), Netherlands, Nicaragua (since 1987), Norway, Paraguay, Peru (since 1981), Poland (since 1990–2006), Portugal, Romania (since 1991–2006), Slovakia (since 1993), Slovenia (since 1992), South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname (since 1988), Sweden, Turkey (since 1984), Ukraine (since 2007), Uruguay (since 1985).Albania (since 1992), Australia, Bolivia (since 1983), Brazil, Croatia (since 1993), Czech Rep. (since 1991), Dom. Rep., El Salvador (since 1983–1997), Germany, Greece, Guatemala (since 1986), Honduras (since 1982), Hungary (since 1991), India, Italy (since 1994), Japan, Lithuania (since 1993), Mozambique (in 1994), New Zealand (since 1993), Philippines (since 1999), Poland (since 2007), Romania (since 2007), Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Suriname (1980), Switzerland, Taiwan (since 1992), Ukraine (since 1998–2003)Bahamas, Bangladesh, Botswana, Canada, Chile (since 1990), France, Jamaica, Mongolia (since 1993–2008), New Zealand (since 1980–1992), P. N. Guinea, Philippines (since 1988–1997), Thailand, Trinidad-Tobago, Ukraine (since 1994–1997), UK, USA, Zambia (since 1992)
Table 5

GI statistics according to electoral systems, 1979–2011.

MeanStd. Dev.MinMaxMeanStd. Dev.MinMaxMeanStd. Dev.MinMax
Table 6

Variables description.

lnYNatural logarithm of gross domestic product at constant price 2000 US. Source: World Bank, 1980–2011.
GIGallagher Disproportionality index. Source: Gallagher Electoral Disproportionality Data, 1945–2011. Source:
ΔpopPopulation rate of growth. Source: World Bank population estimates and urban ratios from the United Nations World Urbanization Prospects, 1980–2011.
IShare of gross capital formation at current PPPs this category follow the definitions of the System of National Accounts (SNA). Source Penn World Table 8.0
HCIndex of human capital per person, based on years of schooling (Barro/Lee, 2012) and returns to education (Psacharopoulos, 1994). Source: Source Penn World Table
GShare of government consumption at current PPPs this category follow the definitions of the System of National Accounts (SNA). Source Penn World Table 8.0
ENPEffective number of parties. It is based on the following formula from Laakso and Taagepera (1979):
where vi is the percentage of the vote received by the ith party. Source:
ExpShare of merchandise exports at current PPPs this category follow the definitions of the System of National Accounts (SNA). Source Penn World Table 8.0
PolityThe Polity IV index is a combined polity score ranging from –10 (strongly autocratic) to +10 (strongly democratic), reached by subtracting the autocracy score from the democracy score. The democracy and autocracy indexes were originally constructed additively based on the following indicators: competitiveness of executive recruitment, openness of executive recruitment, constraints on chief executive, regulation of participation, and competitiveness of participation. Scholars have reduced the index to a dichotomous measure of democracy and autocracy. A perfect +10 democracy, like Australia, Greece, and Sweden, has institutionalized procedures for open and competitive political participation; chooses and replaces chief executives in open, competitive elections; and imposes substantial checks and balances on the powers of the chief executive. In a perfect –10 autocracy, by contrast, citizens’ participation is sharply restricted or suppressed; chief executives are selected according to clearly defined (usually hereditary) rules of succession from within the established political elite; and, once in office, chief executives exercise power with few or no checks from legislative, judicial, or civil society institutions. A polity score of –88 indicates economies in transition. Source: Polity IV Individual Country Regime Trends, 1946–2013:
LatitudeDegrees of latitude; it is the distance from the equator. Source: Robert E. Hall and Charles I. Jones, Source:
ReligionIndex of religious fractionalization. It ranges between 0 and 1, where 0 means complete homogeneity and 1 means complete heterogeneity. It is based on data from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2001. Alesina et al. (2003), point out the boundaries of religions are more consistent across countries, however the whole dataset covers 294 different religions (Hindu; Nonreligious; Muslim; Atheist; Roman Catholic; Shintoist; Buddhist; Christian; Protestant; Shii Muslim; Sunni Muslim; Evangelical Protestant; Anglican; Orthodox; Lutheran; Sikh, etc.) in 215 countries and dependencies and it considers the number of people who practice each religion. Source: upload from
EthnicIndex of ethnic fractionalization. It combines the language variable above with other information about racial characteristics (normally skin colour). It ranges between 0 and 1, where 0 means complete homogeneity and 1 means complete heterogeneity. Groups were classified as different if they spoke a different language and/or had different physical characteristics. Data source key (see Alesina et al., 2003): eb = Encyclopaedia Brit, cia = CIA, sm = Scarrit and Mozaffar; lev = Levinson, wdm = World Directory of Minorities, census = national census data. Source: upload from
dmDistrict magnitude. It represents the magnitude of the average district. It is calculated in standard fashion as the size of the average district, or the number of seats divided by the number of districts. Source: Database of Electoral Systems and the Personal Vote by Joel W. Johnson and Jessica S. Wallack.
Table 7


Table 8

Wald test.

Table 9

C test.

χ2 Hansen test13.0612


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Published Online: 2015-3-3
Published in Print: 2015-3-1

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