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Economic Recessions and Congressional Preferences for Redistribution

52 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2016 Last revised: 16 Aug 2017

Maria Carreri

New York University (NYU), Department of Politics, Students

Edoardo Teso

Harvard University, Department of Economics, Students

Date Written: July 5, 2017

Abstract

We analyze the roots of politicians' preferences for redistribution by exploring whether early life experiences have persistent, long-run effects on U.S. Members of Congress' voting records. We study whether having experienced an economic recession during early adulthood affected their positions on redistribution-specific bills during the period 1957-2012. We find that politicians who experienced a recession hold more conservative positions on redistribution, even compared to members of the same party in the same legislature. We rule out alternative accounts and show that experiencing a recession directly affects future politicians' personal preferences. In light of recent empirical evidence showing that voters become more supportive of redistribution following a recession, our findings suggest that macroeconomic shocks have a polarizing effect: recessions can create an ideological wedge between voters and their future representatives. We present two pieces of evidence suggesting that this wedge can be explained by politicians' more privileged background.

Keywords: Recession, Redistribution, Members of Congress, Impressionable years

JEL Classification: D31, D63, P16, Z13

Suggested Citation

Carreri, Maria and Teso, Edoardo, Economic Recessions and Congressional Preferences for Redistribution (July 5, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2813588 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2813588

Maria Carreri (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU), Department of Politics, Students ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Edoardo Teso

Harvard University, Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

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