Widowhood Effects in Voter Participation

American Journal of Political Science, Forthcoming

45 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2012 Last revised: 9 Apr 2019

See all articles by William R. Hobbs

William R. Hobbs

Cornell University

Nicholas A. Christakis

Harvard University - Department of Health Care Policy

James H. Fowler

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences; UC San Diego School of Medicine

Date Written: March 10, 2013

Abstract

Past research suggests that spouses influence one another to vote, but relies almost exclusively on correlation in turnout. It is therefore difficult to establish whether spouses mobilize each other or tend to marry similar others. Here, we test the dependency hypothesis by examining voting behavior before and after the death of a spouse. We link nearly 6 million California voter records to Social Security death records, and use both coarsened exact matching and multiple cohort comparison to estimate the effects of spousal loss. The results show that after turnout rates stabilize, widowed individuals vote nine percentage points less than they would had their spouse still been living, and that this change may persist indefinitely. Variations in this "widowhood effect" on voting support a social isolation explanation for the drop in turnout.

Keywords: turnout, political participation, social isolation, mobilization, spouse, death, loss, widowhood effect, causal inference

Suggested Citation

Hobbs, William R. and Christakis, Nicholas A. and Fowler, James H., Widowhood Effects in Voter Participation (March 10, 2013). American Journal of Political Science, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2192361 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2192361

William R. Hobbs (Contact Author)

Cornell University

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Nicholas A. Christakis

Harvard University - Department of Health Care Policy ( email )

25 Shattuck Street
Boston, MA 02115
United States

James H. Fowler

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

UC San Diego School of Medicine ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
MC 0507
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

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