The Effect of Randomized School Admissions on Voter Participation

Justine S. Hastings, Thomas J. Kane, Douglas O. Staiger, Jeffrey M. Weinstein

NBER Working Paper No. 11794
Issued in November 2005, Revised in December 2006
NBER Program(s):Program on Children, Economics of Education Program, Labor Studies Program, Public Economics Program, Industrial Organization Program, Political Economy Program

There is little causal evidence on the effect of economic and policy outcomes on voting behavior. This paper uses randomized outcomes from a school choice lottery to examine if lottery outcomes affect voting behavior in a school board election. We show that losing the lottery has no significant impact on overall voting behavior; however, among white families, those with above median income and prior voting history, lottery losers were significantly more likely to vote than lottery winners. Using propensity score methods, we compare the voting of lottery participants to similar families who did not participate in the lottery. We find that losing the school choice lottery caused an increase in voter turnout among whites, while winning the lottery had no effect relative to non-participants. Overall, our empirical results lend support to models of expressive and retrospective voting, where likely voters are motivated to vote by past negative policy outcomes.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11794

Published: Hastings, Justine, Thomas Kane, Douglas Staiger, and Jeffrey Weinstein. “The Effect of Randomized School Admissions on Voter Participation." Journal of Public Economics (June 2007). citation courtesy of

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