Land lotteries, long-term wealth, and political selection
Does personal wealth cause individuals to select into public office? This study exploits the 1805 and 1807 Georgia land lotteries to investigate the hypothesis that wealth increases political power. Most eligible males participated in the lotteries and more than one-in-ten participants won a land prize worth over half of median property wealth. I find no evidence that lottery wealth increases the likelihood of officeholding or running for office, and argue that those null findings are informative because the estimates are not practically different from zero. The absence of a treatment effect implies that commonly observed cross-sectional correlations between personal wealth and officeholding are likely explained by selection effects.
KeywordsCandidacy Natural experiment Officeholding Wealth shock
JEL ClassificationD72 N31 N41
I thank Eric Dickson, Sean Gailmard, Pete Leeson, Eric Schickler, and William F. Shughart II for helpful comments. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE 1106400. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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