Household Financial Distress and Voter Participation

42 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2017

See all articles by W. Ben McCartney

W. Ben McCartney

Purdue University - Krannert School of Management; Duke University - Finance

Date Written: November 11, 2017


How does household finance affect political economics? In this paper, I focus on one particular channel of influence and ask if financially distressed homeowners are more or less likely to participate in elections. To address this question, I merge deeds records with voter rolls to create a novel panel dataset, and then exploit variation in the magnitude and timing of house price declines during the recession. I find that, for highly leveraged homeowners, a ten percent decline in local house prices decreases voter participation by two percentage points. Furthermore, homeowners, especially highly leveraged homeowners, are significantly more affected by house price declines than their renter-neighbors. Back of the envelope calculations suggest that mortgage distress can explain approximately 500,000 abstentions in the 2012 general election.

Keywords: Household Finance, Financial Distress, Mortgages, Voter Participation, Elections

JEL Classification: D10, D72, H31, R20

Suggested Citation

McCartney, W. Ben, Household Financial Distress and Voter Participation (November 11, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

W. Ben McCartney (Contact Author)

Purdue University - Krannert School of Management ( email )

1310 Krannert Building
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1310
United States

Duke University - Finance ( email )

Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States


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