Electoral Consequences of Welfare State Expansion: The Case of the Food Stamp Program
32 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2016
Date Written: November 22, 2016
Welfare programs are hard to reconcile with the notion that politicians are motivated primarily by electoral considerations, since these programs benefit the most politically marginalized citizens. I present evidence to resolve this apparent puzzle, documenting how welfare can indeed pay dividends at the ballot box. Taking advantage of the decade-long rollout of the American Food Stamp Program, I estimate the effect of this new benefit on election outcomes. Overall, I find that Democrats gained votes in counties where the program had been implemented, primarily through mobilization of new supporters rather than the conversion of political opponents. Reflecting the implementation challenges that plagued FSP in its early years, I also show that Democrats paid an initial electoral price when the program was first introduced, but that this penalty faded quickly as Democratic candidates began to see significant, persistent gains only a few years later.
Keywords: Welfare State, Food Stamps, Distributive Politics, Retrospective Voting
JEL Classification: H00, H5, H53, H7, H75, I3, I38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation