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Does Church Attendance Cause People to Vote? Using Blue Laws’ Repeal to Estimate the Effect of Religiosity on Voter Turnout

Listed author(s):
  • Gerber, Alan S.
  • Gruber, Jonathan
  • Hungerman, Daniel M.

Regular church attendance is strongly associated with a higher probability of voting. It is an open question as to whether this association, which has been confirmed in numerous surveys, is causal. We use the repeal of the laws restricting Sunday retail activity ("Blue laws") to measure the effects of church-going on political participation. The repeal of Blue Laws caused a 5 percent decrease in church attendance. We measure the effect of Blue Laws' repeal on political participation and find that following the repeal turnout falls by approximately 1 percentage point. This turnout decline, which is statistically significant and fairly robust across model specifications, is consistent with the large effect of church attendance on turnout reported in the literature, and suggests that church attendance may have significant causal influence on voter turnout.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal British Journal of Political Science.

Volume (Year): 46 (2016)
Issue (Month): 03 (July)
Pages: 481-500

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Handle: RePEc:cup:bjposi:v:46:y:2016:i:03:p:481-500_00
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  1. Milligan, Kevin & Moretti, Enrico & Oreopoulos, Philip, 2004. "Does education improve citizenship? Evidence from the United States and the United Kingdom," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1667-1695, August.
  2. Evelyn Lehrer & Carmel Chiswick, 1993. "Religion as a determinant of marital stability," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 30(3), pages 385-404, August.
  3. Lipford, Jody & McCormick, Robert E. & Tollison, Robert D., 1993. "Preaching matters," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 235-250, August.
  4. Hull, Brooks B. & Bold, Frederick, 1995. "Preaching matters: Replication and extension," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 143-149, June.
  5. Jonathan Gruber & Daniel M. Hungerman, 2006. "The Church vs the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?," NBER Working Papers 12410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
  7. Evelyn Lehrer, 1996. "Religion as a determinant of marital fertility," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 9(2), pages 173-196, June.
  8. Gruber Jonathan H & Mullainathan Sendhil, 2005. "Do Cigarette Taxes Make Smokers Happier," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-45, July.
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