Trickle-Up Political Socialization: The Causal Effect on Turnout of Parenting a Newly Enfranchised Voter
by Jens Olav Dahlgaard, Copenhagen Business School
New evidence from Danish administrative data shows that children affect their parents’ political behavior. The study uses the fact that eighteen year-olds can vote while almost eighteen year-olds cannot. This fact implies that otherwise comparable parents either have children that are just old enough to vote or not. In Denmark, where all eligible voters are automatically registered, parents’ turnout increase by 2.8 percentage points across four elections when their children enter the electorate. In a country where around 75% of the parents vote anyway, it means that one out of nine parents who would have abstained become mobilized by their children.
By showing that children also affect their parents, the study brings nuance to the notion that political socialization is top-down process in which parents instill norm in their children. The evidence suggests that two mechanisms drive the results: parents are both mobilized because they want to convey a norm of voting to their children and because their children are keen on voting and pull their parents to the poll. An interesting caveat is that the effect seems to be conditional on cohabitation as only parents whose children still live with them are mobilized to vote.