September 2017

IZA DP No. 11059: Was Brexit Caused by the Unhappy and the Old?

published as 'Was Brexit triggered by the old and unhappy? Or by financial feelings?' in: Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2019, 161, 287-302

On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (so-called 'Brexit'). This paper uses newly released information, from the Understanding Society data set, to examine the characteristics of individuals who were for and against Brexit. Two key findings emerge. First, unhappy feelings contributed to Brexit. However, contrary to commonly heard views, the key channel of influence was not through general dissatisfaction with life. It was through a person's narrow feelings about his or her own financial situation. Second, despite some commentators' guesses, Brexit was not caused by old people. Only the very young were substantially pro-Remain.