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Selfish and Prospective: Theory and Evidence of Pocketbook Voting


  • Elinder, Mikael

    () (Uppsala University)

  • Jordahl, Henrik

    () (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

  • Poutvaara, Panu

    () (University of Helsinki)


We present and test a theory of prospective and retrospective pocketbook voting. Focusing on two large reforms in Sweden, we establish a causal chain from policies to sizeable individual gains and losses and then to voting. The Social Democrats proposed budget cuts affecting parents with young children before the 1994 election, but made generous promises to the same group before the 1998 election. Since parents with older children were largely unaffected we use a difference-in-differences strategy for identification. We find clear evidence of prospective pocketbook voting. Voters respond to campaign promises but not to the later implementation of the reforms.

Suggested Citation

  • Elinder, Mikael & Jordahl, Henrik & Poutvaara, Panu, 2008. "Selfish and Prospective: Theory and Evidence of Pocketbook Voting," Working Paper Series 770, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0770

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    Cited by:

    1. Mounir Karadja & Johanna Mollerstrom & David Seim, 2017. "Richer (and Holier) Than Thou? The Effect of Relative Income Improvements on Demand for Redistribution," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 99(2), pages 201-212, May.
    2. Libman, Alexander, 2011. "Words or deeds – what matters? Experience of recentralization in Russian security agencies," MPRA Paper 29197, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Mörk, Eva & Sjögren, Anna & Svalelryd, Helena, 2008. "Cheaper child care, more children," Working Paper Series 2008:29, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    4. Eva Mörk & Anna Sjögren & Helena Svaleryd, 2013. "Childcare costs and the demand for children—evidence from a nationwide reform," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(1), pages 33-65, January.
    5. Marco Manacorda & Edward Miguel & Andrea Vigorito, 2011. "Government Transfers and Political Support," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 1-28, July.
    6. Dawes, Christopher T. & Johannesson, Magnus & Lindqvist, Erik & Loewen, Peter & Östling, Robert & Bonde, Marianne & Priks, Frida, 2012. "Generosity and Political Preferences," Working Paper Series 941, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    7. Alexander Libman, 2015. "Words or deeds: what matters? On the role of symbolic action in political decentralization," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 49(3), pages 801-838, November.
    8. Markus Brueckner & Hans Peter Gruener, 2016. "Growth and Extremism," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2016-639, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.

    More about this item


    Elections; Economic voting; Pocketbook voting; Self-interest; Prospective voting; Retrospective voting; Child care;

    JEL classification:

    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General


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