Enrico Cantoni (Program on Political Economy Seminar)


Thursday, April 29, 2021, 4:30pm to 5:45pm


Online via Zoom

Two papers: “When Family Matters: The Gendered Effects of Life-Cycle Transitions on Electoral Participation” and “Making Unequal Democracy Work? The Effects of Income on Voter Turnout in Northern Italy”


“When Family Matters”

In many democracies, gender differences in voter turnout have narrowed or even reversed, on average. Yet, it appears that women participate more in some circumstances, and men in others. We contribute to explaining these patterns focusing on the impact of family transitions—marriage and having kids—on turnout trajectories among male and female voters. To this end, we leverage a unique administrative panel dataset from Italy, an established democracy where traditional norms of gender-appropriate behavior remain important. Our difference-indifference estimates reveal that marriage equalizes turnout among spouses, increasing men’s participation, and leaving women’s unchanged. We also find that infants depress maternal turnout over several years, whereas primary school kids stimulate paternal turnout. Exploring potential mechanisms, we suggest that increased well-being among men and peer pressure within couples are the likely sources of the marriage effect, and that gender imbalance in household responsibilities is the source of the asymmetric parenthood effects.

“Making Unequal Democracy Work?”

In many democracies, voter turnout is higher among the rich than the poor. But do changes in income lead to changes in electoral participation? We address this question with unique administrative data matching a decade of individual tax records with voter rolls in a large municipality in northern Italy. We document several important findings. First, levels of income and turnout both dropped disproportionately among relatively poor citizens following the Great Recession. Second, we show that within-individual changes in income have an effect on participation, which is modest on average due to diminishing returns, but can be consequential among the poor. Third, we find that declining turnout of voters facing economic insecurity has exacerbated the income skew in participation, suggesting that income inequality and turnout inequality may reinforce each other. We discuss the theoretical implications of these results, set in a context with strong civic traditions and low barriers to voting.


Co-sponsored by FAS and IQSS, the Program on Political Economy (PE) supports research-related activities that integrate the study of economics and politics, whether by studying economic behavior in the political process or political behavior in the marketplace. In general, positive political economy is concerned with showing how observed differences among institutions affect political and economic outcomes in various social, economic, and political systems and how the institutions themselves change and develop in response to individual and collective beliefs, preferences, and strategies.

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All interested faculty and students are invited to attend.