Employment, Wages and Voter Turnout

51 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2011

See all articles by Kerwin Kofi Charles

Kerwin Kofi Charles

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Melvin Stephens

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: August 2011

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

Charles, Kerwin Kofi and Stephens, Melvin, Employment, Wages and Voter Turnout (August 2011). NBER Working Paper No. w17270, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1906204

Kerwin Kofi Charles (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
(773) 834-8922 (Phone)

Melvin Stephens

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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