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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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Bibliographic Info

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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Publication status: published as Kerwin Kofi Charles & Melvin Stephens Jr., 2013. "Employment, Wages, and Voter Turnout," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 111-43, October.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17270

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  1. James M. Snyder, Jr. & David Strömberg, 2008. "Press Coverage and Political Accountability," NBER Working Papers 13878, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Meltzer, Allan H & Vellrath, Marc, 1975. "The Effects of Economic Policies on Votes for the Presidency: Some Evidence from Recent Elections: Reply," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 803-05, December.
  3. Coupe, Tom & Noury, Abdul G., 2004. "Choosing not to choose: on the link between information and abstention," Economics Letters, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 261-265, August.
  4. Matsusaka, John G & Palda, Filip, 1999. " Voter Turnout: How Much Can We Explain?," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 98(3-4), pages 431-46, March.
  5. Acemoglu, Daron & Finkelstein, Amy & Notowidigdo, Matthew J., 2009. "Income and Health Spending: Evidence from Oil Price Shocks," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 7255, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Arianna Degan & Antonio Merlo, 2011. "A Structural Model Of Turnout And Voting In Multiple Elections," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 209-245, 04.
  7. Stigler, George J, 1975. "The Effects of Economic Policies on Votes for the Presidency: Some Evidence from Recent Elections: Comment," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 801-02, December.
  8. Arianna Degan & Antonio Merlo, 2007. "A Structural Model of Turnout and Voting in Multiple Elections, Fourth Version," PIER Working Paper Archive, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania 07-025, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Aug 2007.
  9. David Dreyer Lassen, 2004. "The Effect of Information on Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," EPRU Working Paper Series, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics 04-03, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  10. Alan B. Krueger & Andreas I. Mueller, 2012. "The Lot Of The Unemployed: A Time Use Perspective," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 765-794, 08.
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  12. Antonio Merlo, 2005. "Whither Political Economy? Theories, Facts and Issues," PIER Working Paper Archive, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania 05-033, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Dec 2005.
  13. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  14. Wolfers, Justin, 2002. "Are Voters Rational? Evidence from Gubernatorial Elections," Research Papers, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business 1730, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  15. David Strömberg, 2004. "Radio's Impact on Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 189-221, February.
  16. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972, 08.
  17. 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, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 781-98, December.
  18. Kramer, Gerald H, 1975. "The Effects of Economic Policies on Votes for the Presidency: Some Evidence from Recent Elections: Comment," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 799-800, December.
  19. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. Chor, Davin & Campante, Filipe Robin, 2011. "'The People Want the Fall of the Regime': Schooling, Political Protest, and the Economy," Scholarly Articles, Harvard Kennedy School of Government 4876868, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  2. Arnaud Chevalier & Orla Doyle, 2012. "SCHOOLING AND VOTER TURNOUT: Is there an American Exception?," Working Papers, Geary Institute, University College Dublin 201210, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  3. Jørgen Juel Andersen & Jon H. Fiva & Gisle James Natvik, 2010. "Voting when the Stakes are High," CESifo Working Paper Series 3167, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Roland Hodler & Simon Luechinger & Alois Stutzer, 2012. "The Effects of Voting Costs on the Democratic Process and Public Finances," Working papers, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel 2012/02, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.

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