Original Paper

Political Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 199-213

First online:

Disenfranchisement Through Divorce? Estimating the Effect of Parental Absence on Voter Turnout

  • Michael W. SancesAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Email author 

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Does growing up without both parents decrease voter turnout? I extend and improve upon earlier answers to this question. First, I estimate the long-term effects on voter turnout via analysis of a nationally representative sample of adults. Second, I exploit the quasi-natural experiment of parental death to correct for non-random selection into parental absence. Contrary to previous research, I find no evidence that growing up in an absent-parent household effects white voter turnout. I also present evidence suggesting the negative effects are limited to black voters.


Political socialization Turnout Inequality