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Employment, Wages and Voter Turnout

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  • Kerwin Kofi Charles
  • Melvin Stephens Jr.

Abstract

This paper argues that, since activities that provide political information are complementary with leisure, increased labor market activity should lower turnout, but should do so least in prominent elections where information is ubiquitous. Using official county-level voting data and a variety of OLS and TSLS models, we find that increases in wages and employment: reduce voter turnout in gubernatorial elections by a significant amount; have no effect on Presidential turnout; and raise the share of persons voting in a Presidential election who do not vote on a House of Representative election on the same ballot. We argue that this pattern (which contradicts some previous findings in the literature) can be fully accounted for by an information argument, and is either inconsistent with or not fully explicable by arguments based on citizens’ psychological motivations to vote in good or bad times; changes in logistical voting costs; or transitory migration. Using individual-level panel data methods and multiple years’ data from the American National Election Study (ANES) we confirm that increases in employment lead to less use of the media and reduced political knowledge, and present associational individual evidence that corroborates our main argument.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17270.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17270

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  1. David Dreyer Lassen, 2004. "The Effect of Information on Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," EPRU Working Paper Series 04-03, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  2. Arianna Degan & Antonio Merlo, 2007. "A Structural Model of Turnout and Voting in Multiple Elections, Fourth Version," PIER Working Paper Archive 07-025, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Aug 2007.
  3. Abdul Ghafar Noury & Tom Coupé, 2004. "Choosing not to choose: on the link between information and abstention," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/7756, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  4. James M. Snyder, Jr. & David Strömberg, 2008. "Press Coverage and Political Accountability," NBER Working Papers 13878, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Antonio Merlo, 2005. "Whither Political Economy? Theories, Facts and Issues," PIER Working Paper Archive 05-033, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Dec 2005.
  8. Wolfers, Justin, 2002. "Are Voters Rational? Evidence from Gubernatorial Elections," Research Papers 1730, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  9. Krueger, Alan B. & Mueller, Andreas I., 2008. "The Lot of the Unemployed: A Time Use Perspective," IZA Discussion Papers 3490, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
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  13. Eric Brunner & Stephen L. Ross & Ebonya Washington, 2011. "Economics and Policy Preferences: Causal Evidence of the Impact of Economic Conditions on Support for Redistribution and Other Ballot Proposals," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 888-906, August.
  14. Dan Black & Kermit Daniel & Seth Sanders, 2002. "The Impact of Economic Conditions on Participation in Disability Programs: Evidence from the Coal Boom and Bust," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 27-50, March.
  15. David Strömberg, 2004. "Radio's Impact on Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 189-221, February.
  16. Meltzer, Allan H & Vellrath, Marc, 1975. "The Effects of Economic Policies on Votes for the Presidency: Some Evidence from Recent Elections," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 781-98, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Andersen, Jørgen Juel & Fiva, Jon H. & Natvik, Gisle James, 2014. "Voting when the stakes are high," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 157-166.
  2. Filipe R. Campante & Davin Chor, 2012. "The People Want the Fall of the Regime": Schooling, Political Protest, and the Economy," Working Papers 08-2012, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
  3. Roland Hodler & Simon Luechinger & Alois Stutzer, 2012. "The Effects of Voting Costs on the Democratic Process and Public Finances," Working papers 2012/02, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
  4. Arnaud Chevalier & Orla Doyle, 2012. "SCHOOLING AND VOTER TURNOUT: Is there an American Exception?," Working Papers 201210, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.

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