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Do Politicians Shape the Electorate ? Evidence from French Municipalities

Benoit Schmutz and Gregory Verdugo ()

No 2020-18, Working Papers from Center for Research in Economics and Statistics

Abstract: When elections are local and voters are mobile, politicians may be tempted to implement policies that attract inhabitants more likely to vote for them while prompting their opponents to leave. We test this hypothesis using data from French municipalities that, in recent decades, received large in ows of immigrants, who tend to vote for the left once naturalized, while immigrant-hostile voters lean to the right. Based on quasi-experimental evidence from thirty years of close elections, we show that six years after close elections, municipalities where a left-wing mayor was elected are characterized by a 2.4 p.p. higher share of immigrants and a 1.4 p.p. lower share of retired natives than the corresponding shares in municipalities where a right-wing mayor was elected. These effects are driven by peripheral municipalities that make up a small share of the population in their metropolitan areas and can therefore benefit from substantial population reshuffling. The evidence suggests that mayors use the large stock of municipal public housing over which they have allocative authority to favor or discriminate against immigrants. These strategies are electorally rewarding as we find a higher probability of reelection for the same party in municipalities in which these demographic changes are the most pronounced. We also find evidence that these demographic changes are associated with the surge of the far-right in local elections in the 1980s.

Keywords: Immigration; Public Housing; Local Elections; Incumbent Effect. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 52 pages
Date: 2020-07-02
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-eur, nep-mig, nep-pol and nep-ure
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