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The Political Fallout of Chernobyl: Evidence from West-German Elections

Listed author(s):
  • Koenig, Christoph

    (Department of Economics University of Warwick)

I study the effect of a formative experience on political beliefs in a distant country. This paper looks at the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986 and voters’ response in West Germany. The analysis uses a di.-in-di. estimation which exploits variation in proximity to the nearest nuclear power plant (NPP) across 301 counties. Proximity is used as proxy for the shock from perceived risk of a nuclear accident. Using data over almost 40 years and 11 elections, my results indicate that living closer to an NPP benefited the explicitly anti- and pro-nuclear parties, the Greens and the Conservatives. The findings are persistent and robust to the inclusion of several socioeconomic controls as well as checks for the validity of the identifying assumptions. The gains of the Greens are similar across social groups and in line with home-voter effects. The effect of proximity on the conservatives increases with education and the number of adolescents in their impressionable years. I argue that this can be explained by political belief formation and di.erences in assessing the economic benefits from nuclear power over the actual risk of an accident. Using variation in the scheduling of subsequent state elections, I can also show that the pro-nuclear response was stronger in counties which did not vote in the immediate aftermath of Chernobyl and thus had more time for a rational electoral choice.

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File URL: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/workingpapers/2015/twerp_1081_koenig.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Warwick, Department of Economics in its series The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) with number 1081.

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Date of creation: 2015
Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:1081
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  1. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Mårten Palme, 2009. "Chernobyl's Subclinical Legacy: Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout and School Outcomes in Sweden," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1729-1772.
  2. Danzer, Alexander M. & Danzer, Natalia, 2016. "The long-run consequences of Chernobyl: Evidence on subjective well-being, mental health and welfare," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 47-60.
  3. Nathan Nunn & Leonard Wantchekon, 2011. "The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3221-3252, December.
  4. Abadie, Alberto & Dermisi, Sofia, 2008. "Is terrorism eroding agglomeration economies in Central Business Districts? Lessons from the office real estate market in downtown Chicago," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 451-463, September.
  5. Ulrike Malmendier & Stefan Nagel, 2011. "Depression Babies: Do Macroeconomic Experiences Affect Risk Taking?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 373-416.
  6. Yanagizawa-Drott, David Hans & Madestam, Andreas, 2012. "Shaping the Nation: The Effect of Fourth of July on Political Preferences and Behavior in the United States," Scholarly Articles 9396434, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  7. G. Pignataro & G. Prarolo, 2012. "One more in my backyard? Insights from the 2011 Italian nuclear referendum," Working Papers wp837, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  8. Madestam, Andreas & Yanagizawa-Drott, David, 2012. "Shaping of the Nation: The Effect of Fourth of July on Political Preferences and Behavior in the United States," Working Paper Series rwp12-034, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  9. Shaw, Kathryn L, 1996. "An Empirical Analysis of Risk Aversion and Income Growth," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(4), pages 626-653, October.
  10. Paola Giuliano & Antonio Spilimbergo, 2014. "Growing up in a Recession," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(2), pages 787-817.
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