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On the Weights of Nations: Assigning Voting Weights in a Heterogeneous Union

Barberà, Salvador and Jackson, Matthew O. (2004) On the Weights of Nations: Assigning Voting Weights in a Heterogeneous Union. Social Science Working Paper, 1196. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

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Consider a voting procedure where countries, states, or districts comprising a union each elect representatives who then participate in later votes at the union level on their behalf. The countries, provinces, and states may vary in their populations and composition. If we wish to maximize the total expected utility of all agents in the union, how to weight the votes of the representatives of the different countries, states or districts at the union level? We provide a simple characterization of the efficient voting rule in terms of the weights assigned to different districts and the voting threshold (how large a qualified� majority is needed to induce change versus the status quo). Next, in the context of a model of the correlation structure of agents preferences, we analyze how voting weights relate to the population size of a country. We then analyze the voting weights in Council of the European Union under the Nice Treaty and the recently proposed constitution, and contrast them under different versions of our model, and compare them to the weights derived from poll data.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
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URLURL TypeDescription ItemPublished Version
Jackson, Matthew O.0000-0001-9846-4249
Additional Information:Financial support from the National Science Foundation is gratefully acknowledged under grants SES-9986190 and SES-0316493, as is Financial support of the Barcelona Economics program (CREA), and the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture through grant PB98-0870; from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology through grant BEC2002-002130, and from the Generalitat of Catalonia through grant SGR2001-00162. We thank Ken Binmore, Jon Eguia, Annick Laruelle, Giovanni Maggi, and Federico Valenciano for helpful discussions and comments. We are very grateful Danilo Coelho for research assistance with the Eurobarometer data. Published as Barbera, S., & Jackson, M.O. (2006). On the weights of nations: assigning voting weights in a heterogeneous union. Journal of Political Economy, 114(2), 317-339.
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Funding AgencyGrant Number
CREA-Barcelona EconomicsUNSPECIFIED
Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte (MECD)PB98-0870
Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (MICINN)BEC2002-002130
Generalitat of CataloniaSGR2001-00162
Subject Keywords:weighted voting, voting rules, voting weights, European Union
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:1196
Classification Code:JEL: D71, D72
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170731-134203644
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:79610
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:01 Aug 2017 23:14
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:21

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