The Effect of Neighborhoods on Voting Behavior

Alberto Simpser (ITAM)
Enrique Seira (ITAM)
Frederico Finan (UC Berkeley)

Abstract: Recent work has documented a dramatic effect of neighborhoods on various non-political outcomes, but the effect of local context on political behavior has not been rigorously established. We use panel data for twelve million voters in Mexico to study the effect of local context on individual voter turnout. We exploit variation in local context induced by citizens who move between the 2012 and 2015 national elections. We find that differences in average turnout between the origin and destination localities substantially influence a mover’s probability of turning out to vote subsequent to moving. We next try to adjudicate between mechanisms relating to selection, infrastructure, political party mobilization, and peer effects. Selection cannot easily account for the fact that a mover’s voting history influences average turnout behavior at the destination, nor for the robustness of the main result to restricting the analysis to citizens within a small geographical unit who move from one block to another. The results are also not due to distance to polling station, violence, and campaign spending. Our findings are strongly consistent with peer effects: movers adopt local norms over time, and these spill over to household members who did not move.