“Assigning a Dollar Value to Being the Incumbent”

The UpShot:

What is an incumbency worth? About half a million dollars, mostly from business political action committees who know cementing ties to established politicians is a top priority.

That incumbent politicians have a financial advantage over their challengers is not news, but Alexander Fouirnaies, a doctoral candidate at the London School of Economics and Andrew B. Hall, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, set out to define just how much of an advantage in a paper being published this month in The Journal of Politics.

Using elections for the House of Representatives from 1980 to 2006 and for state legislatures from 1990 to 2010, the authors focused on races where either a Republican or a Democrat very narrowly won election. They then looked at the winner’s fund-raising in the next election. On average, a candidate for national office would get a boost of $500,000 in contributions in the next election. (The $500,000 figure is in 2014 dollars; the paper uses constant 1990 dollars, which puts the advantage at $275,000).


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