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MPs For Sale? Estimating Returns to Office in Post-War British Politics
Unformatted Document Text:  out from the placebo effects. The placebo effects are generally negative and relatively small in magnitude; all of the them are insignificant at conventional levels. This finding increases our confidence that our estimate measures the effect of gaining office rather than a random artifact of the data. C.2. Test for Zero Average Effect on Placebo Outcomes Here we assess whether winning office appears to have affected candidate characteristics (such as year of birth) that could not possibly have been affected by serving in Parliament. This type of test, which was first applied in an RD setting by Lee et al. (2004), 24 looks for evidence that the winners of very close elections do not appear to have been randomly selected; if they were, we would expect to see no treatment effect on these placebo outcomes. We repeatedly obtain RD estimates at the threshold between losers and winners, where instead of wealth as the outcome we used each of our covariates in turn. Table 5 displays the results. For both parties, we find no significant differences between winners and losers at the threshold. As a further robustness test, we check whether winning and losing candidates appear to have run in similarly competitive seats, measured by the vote share won by the candidate’s party in the previous election in the same district. This variable is a good proxy for the attractiveness of the seat, which particularly in the British electoral system is likely to be correlated with candidate quality. This covariate is almost perfectly balanced at the threshold for both parties, which further strengthens our confidence in the RD assumption of quasi-random assignment to office at the threshold. Finally, we also checked whether the close winner and losers differ in the number of races the candidate ran before the decisive race (i.e. the first winning race for winners or the best losing race for losers). Again, there is no significant difference at the threshold. Conservatives close winners on average made about .19 more previous attempts than close losers (about .65 to .46) but the difference is highly statistically insignificant; the median close winner and median close loser are both first-time candidates. 24 See Imbens & Lemieux (2007) for a discussion. 18

Authors: Eggers, Andy. and Hainmueller, Jens.
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out from the placebo effects. The placebo effects are generally negative and relatively small
in magnitude; all of the them are insignificant at conventional levels. This finding increases
our confidence that our estimate measures the effect of gaining office rather than a random
artifact of the data.
C.2.
Test for Zero Average Effect on Placebo Outcomes
Here we assess whether winning office appears to have affected candidate characteristics
(such as year of birth) that could not possibly have been affected by serving in Parliament.
This type of test, which was first applied in an RD setting by Lee et al. (2004),
24
looks
for evidence that the winners of very close elections do not appear to have been randomly
selected; if they were, we would expect to see no treatment effect on these placebo outcomes.
We repeatedly obtain RD estimates at the threshold between losers and winners, where
instead of wealth as the outcome we used each of our covariates in turn. Table 5 displays
the results. For both parties, we find no significant differences between winners and losers
at the threshold.
As a further robustness test, we check whether winning and losing candidates appear to
have run in similarly competitive seats, measured by the vote share won by the candidate’s
party in the previous election in the same district. This variable is a good proxy for the
attractiveness of the seat, which particularly in the British electoral system is likely to
be correlated with candidate quality. This covariate is almost perfectly balanced at the
threshold for both parties, which further strengthens our confidence in the RD assumption
of quasi-random assignment to office at the threshold. Finally, we also checked whether the
close winner and losers differ in the number of races the candidate ran before the decisive
race (i.e. the first winning race for winners or the best losing race for losers). Again, there
is no significant difference at the threshold. Conservatives close winners on average made
about .19 more previous attempts than close losers (about .65 to .46) but the difference is
highly statistically insignificant; the median close winner and median close loser are both
first-time candidates.
24
See Imbens & Lemieux (2007) for a discussion.
18


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