Do direct elections matter? Quasi-experimental evidence from Germany

  • Stefanie GaeblerEmail author
  • Felix Roesel


We estimate the causal effect of direct elections on the economic performance of politicians. Candidates running in direct elections to head local governments in the German state of Brandenburg need an absolute majority, and votes for the winner must represent at least 15% of eligible voters. If the quorum is not reached, direct elections are suspended, and local councils appoint the head of government. We examine election outcomes around the quorum, where the form of government is arguably exogenous. Event study results show that the public employment service becomes somewhat more effective under directly elected politicians. However, directly elected politicians do not seem to attract more businesses or expedite administrative acts.


Direct elections Constitutions Government form Local government Economic performance Public services Germany 

JEL Classification

D72 H40 H75 R50 



We thank two anonymous referees, and Davide Cipullo, Vera Eichenauer, Sebastian Garmann, Robert Lehmann, John Matsusaka, Niklas Potrafke, Johannes Rode, Ivana Tomankova, and the participants of the 7th ifo Dresden Workshop on Regional Economics (2017), the 55th Annual Meeting of the Public Choice Society in Charleston (2018), the EPCS in Rome (2018), the 27th Silvaplana Workshop in Political Economy in Pontresina (2018), the IIPF in Tampere (2018), and the Annual Meeting of the German Economic Association in Freiburg (2018) for helpful comments. Felix Roesel gratefully acknowledges funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG Grant No. 400857762).

Supplementary material

10797_2019_9539_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (146 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 145 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Technische Universität Dresden, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, Dresden BranchDresdenGermany

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