What is a Congressional Seat Worth? Estimating the Value Using Auction Theory

Abstract: This paper models campaign expenditures as bids in an asymmetric all-pay auction. It predicts intuitive mixed Nash expenditure strategies and electoral outcome probabilities. As district demographics, such as partisan voter registration statistics, favor a candidate more heavily, the mixed expenditure strategies converge pointwise to the classic Median Voter Model.  The parameter of the model is then estimated based on the predicted moments of the expenditure distribution.  We use the district level voter registration statistics and observed campaign expenditure behavior to estimate the value of a Congressional House seat to be about $4.5 million.

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