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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Kerwin Kofi Charles & Melvin Stephens Jr., 2011. "Employment, Wages and Voter Turnout," NBER Working Papers 17270, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17270
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    Cited by:

    1. Campante, Filipe R. & Chor, Davin, 2014. "“The people want the fall of the regime”: Schooling, political protest, and the economy," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 495-517.
    2. Arnaud Chevalier & Orla Doyle, 2012. "Schooling and voter turnout : is there an American exception?," Working Papers 201213, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    3. 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.
    4. Christian Dippel & Robert Gold & Stephan Heblich & Rodrigo Pinto, 2017. "Instrumental Variables and Causal Mechanisms: Unpacking the Effect of Trade on Workers and Voters," CESifo Working Paper Series 6816, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. repec:kap:pubcho:v:171:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11127-016-0399-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Christian Dippel & Robert Gold & Stephan Heblich, 2015. "Globalization and Its (Dis-)Content: Trade Shocks and Voting Behavior," NBER Working Papers 21812, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Garmann, Sebastian, 2016. "Concurrent elections and turnout: Causal estimates from a German quasi-experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 126(PA), pages 167-178.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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