Working Paper No. 770

Selfish and Prospective: Theory and Evidence of Pocketbook Voting

Published: October 16, 2008Pages: 31Keywords: Elections; Economic voting; Pocketbook voting; Self-interest; Prospective voting; Retrospective voting; Child careJEL-codes: C21; D72; H50

Selfish and Prospective: Theory and Evidence of Pocketbook Voting Mikael Elinder, Henrik Jordahl and Panu Poutvaara


We present and test a theory of prospective and retrospective pocketbook voting. Focusing on two large reforms in Sweden, we establish a causal chain from policies to sizeable individual gains and losses and then to voting. The Social Democrats proposed budget cuts affecting parents with young children before the 1994 election, but made generous promises to the same group before the 1998 election. Since parents with older children were largely unaffected we use a difference-in-differences strategy for identification. We find clear evidence of prospective pocketbook voting. Voters respond to campaign promises but not to the later implementation of the reforms.



Henrik Jordahl

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Ph: +46 8 665 4533
Mob: +46 70 938 3858
henrik.jordahl@ifn.se

Mikael Elinder

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Ph: +46 18 471 1565
Mob: +46 70 769 0976
mikael.elinder@ifn.se

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Martin Ljunge, IFN, is the author of a chapter, "Trust promotes health: addressing reverse causality by studying children of immigrants", in a new book edited by Sherman Folland and Eric Nauenberg. The cutting edge of research is presented, covering the ever-expanding social capital field.

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