Bicameral Sequence: Theory and State Legislative Evidence Academic Article uri icon


  • Theory: Voting sequence is a strategic variable between bicameral chambers. Decisions by chambers to acquire costly information affect the payoffs chambers receive from sequencing choices. Thus, it is also a strategic variable between bicameral chambers. Hypotheses: (1) Because of incentives to take advantage of one chamber's informational expertise when chambers share relatively homogeneous policy preferences, house chambers in legislatures dominated by a single party will initiate adopted legislation in greater proportion relative to legislatures that are not dominated by a single party. (2) A cost advantage in acquiring information grows with an increasing disparity in the number of legislators between bicameral chambers. Lower information acquisition costs in the larger bicameral chamber account for a persistent first-mover advantage for that chamber. Methods: Hypotheses are derived from a game theoretic model in which informational endowments are endogenously chosen by bicameral chambers and in which voting sequence is endogenously determined. Implications of the model are tested with an original data set developed from the session laws of thirty-three state legislatures. Results: Under specified conditions, bicameral chambers sequence themselves to take advantage of one chamber's informational expertise. Under other conditions, bicameral chambers will not take advantage of a chamber's informational expertise. The main theoretical results conclude: (1) that one-party legislatures take greater advantage of informational expertise relative to divided-party legislatures; (2) that senators have an incentive to specialize in more risky policy environments relative to house members; and, (3) that there is an informational basis for house chambers to initiate more adopted legislation than senate chambers. The empirical results are consistent with hypothesis 1. The results are consistent with hypothesis 2, although an alternative (noncontradictory) theory might also account for the result.

published proceedings

  • American Journal of Political Science

author list (cited authors)

  • Rogers, J. R

citation count

  • 22

complete list of authors

  • Rogers, James R

publication date

  • October 1998