Since 1914, the U.S. Senate has been elected and incumbent senators
allowed to run for reelection without limit. This differs from several other elected
offices in the U.S., which impose term limits on incumbents. Term limits may harm the
electorate if tenure is beneficial or if they force high quality candidates to retire
but may also benefit the electorate if they cause higher quality candidates to run.
We investigate how changes in electoral design affect voter utility by specifying and
structurally estimating a dynamic model of voter decisions. We find that tenure effects
for the U.S. Senate are negative or small and that incumbents face weaker challengers
than candidates running for open seats. Because of this, term limits can significantly
increase voter welfare.
Gowrisankaran, Gautam, Matthew Mitchell, and Andrea Moro. "Electoral Design and Voter Welfare from the U.S. Senate: Evidence from a Dynamic Selection Model,"
Review of Economic Dynamics 11(1),
pp. 1-17, January
title = "Electoral Design and Voter Welfare from the U.S. Senate: Evidence from a Dynamic Selection Model",
author = "Gowrisankaran, Gautam and Matthew Mitchell and Andrea Moro",
year = "2008",
month = " January",
journal = "Review of Economic Dynamics",
number = "1",
volume = "11",
pages = "1-17",
url = "http://www.andreamoro.net/assets/papers/electoral_design_and_voter_welfare.pdf"