Robots, China and Polls: Structural Shocks and Political Participation in the US

53 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2021

See all articles by Marina Chugunova

Marina Chugunova

Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition

Arnau Juanmarti

University of Navarra, IESE Business School

Klaus Keller

Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition

Sampsa Samila

University of Navarra, IESE Business School

Date Written: September 3, 2021

Abstract

What is the effect of labour market adjustment to automation on political participation? We study the consequences of the introduction of industrial robots across US commuting zones on voter turnout in US counties between 2000 and 2016. We first replicate prior results showing negative effects of exposure to robots on employment and household incomes at local labour markets and then show that an increase in the exposure by one robot per thousand workers leads to a 0.64 percentage point lower voter turnout at US presidential elections. We contrast this result with the effect of the exposure to Chinese imports, for which we do not find a negative effect on political participation. Using individual level data we document that people at risk of automation are 15% percent more likely to abstain. To understand why the effect is not uniform, we conduct an online survey experiment. We find that the nature of the shock matters beyond the mere economic consequences. While the government is seen as instrumental in addressing the trade shock, it is perceived less effective in the case of automation. Our finding highlight an important behavioral aspect of the political economy of technological change.

Keywords: automation, trade, labor demand, voter turnout

JEL Classification: J23, F16, D72

Suggested Citation

Chugunova, Marina and Juanmarti, Arnau and Keller, Klaus and Samila, Sampsa, Robots, China and Polls: Structural Shocks and Political Participation in the US (September 3, 2021). Max Planck Institute for Innovation & Competition Research Paper No. 21-22, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3929377 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3929377

Marina Chugunova (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition ( email )

Munich, 80539
Germany

Arnau Juanmarti

University of Navarra, IESE Business School ( email )

Avenida Pearson 21
Barcelona, 08034
Spain

Klaus Keller

Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition ( email )

Marstallplatz 1
Munich, Bayern 80539
Germany

Sampsa Samila

University of Navarra, IESE Business School ( email )

Avenida Pearson 21
Barcelona, 08034
Spain

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