Explaining Unequal Participation: The Differential Effects of Winter Weather on Voter Turnout
43 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2011
Understanding how economic inequality translates into unequal political participation is critical, as the consequences of such inequality-unequal influence over political outcomes - are so acute. This paper advances an argument about how income influences an individual's propensity to vote: namely, that low income citizens are especially susceptible to negative economic shocks. When individuals in a state suer unexpectedly cold winters, all state residents will experience a shock to their costs of living, but low income residents will be more vulnerable to these shocks. As a result, the opportunity costs of political participation are higher for low income residents, which can influence their voting behavior in an approaching election. These same costs are probably negligible for more financially-secure residents. Using voter data from the American National Election Study in conjunction with state-level temperature data for the years 1952 to 2004, this analysis finds that deviations from average state temperatures in January have a significant impact on voting in the election the following November, but only among low income respondents. These findings hold up to various model specifications and sensitivity tests.
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