March 2018

IZA DP No. 11384: Family Structure and the Turnout Gender Gap: Evidence from Italy

We study the effects of changes in household structure–marriage, divorce, widowhood, and the presence of children of different ages–on individual-level voter turnout. To this end, we assemble a unique voter-level panel dataset spanning four elections in a large Italian municipality. The data merge information from administrative voter rolls, the civil register, and income tax files. Differences-in-differences estimates accounting for voter fixed effects reveal sizable effects of marital status and children on voter participation. Impact estimates are significantly different across genders and are not explained by socio-economic characteristics. To show that changes in voter participation do not predate changes in family structure, we use an event-study approach that is rare in micro-econometric studies of voter turnout. Lastly, we explore possible mechanisms using pooled cross-sectional data from the Italian National Election Studies and the ISTAT Aspects of Daily Life surveys. Our results shed new light on the importance of life-course transitions and their gender-heterogeneous effects as key drivers of voter turnout.