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Redistributive Politics and Stock Price Dispersion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2003

Department of Politics, New York University.


Cross-sectional time-series data from fourteen stock markets, from 1973 to 1996, are used to study how political institutions compare in affecting party governments' incentives to enrich one group of industries at the expense of another. Using measures of cross-sectoral variance of price changes within stock markets as a proxy for change in redistributive policy, I show that political change is important in both proportional representation (PR) and majoritarian systems. As parties shift in and out of government, trade and industrial policy is redistributed to favour the parties' industrial supporters. Such changes in policy increase the cross-sectoral dispersion in price changes, with newly advantaged industries seeing their stock increase, while the price of those losing favourable policy declines. The temporal impact of redistribution differs across electoral systems, with the impact of political change being more immediate in majoritarian systems and the effect being more diffuse in PR systems. Majoritarian systems are also more responsive to economic shocks, while changes in economic conditions have few discernable effects on the dispersion of stock prices in PR countries. PR systems, however, experience overall higher levels of dispersion. I contrast these results with the dominant extant arguments of radical policy shifts in majoritarian systems and policy stability in PR systems.

Research Article
© 2003 Cambridge University Press

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