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Green Homeowners? An Empirical Application of Fischel’s Homevoter Hypothesis

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Abstract

It is a no-brainer that owners of private property usually care about their personal possessions. But does this also apply to public goods? Fischel’s homevoter hypothesis argues that property owners—in this case homeowners—will exhibit more than average concern with regard to public goods, particularly local public goods in their own neighborhood such as the local crime rate, nearby schools, and environmental quality. This contribution applies Fischel’s hypothesis to the public good of residential environmental conditions. Based on survey and administrative data collected in two cities, Mainz in Germany and Zurich in Switzerland, it examines whether house and apartment owners, as compared to house and apartment renters, are more eager to participate in protest against environmental bads in their neighborhood. Empirical results show that homeowners tend to live under better residential environmental conditions than renters. In line with the homevoter hypothesis, they also tend to participate more often in public protest activities against residential environmental bads, including local noise pollution due to road traffic and aircraft noise. However, some empirical findings, e.g., the “aircraft noise challenge” for homeowners, contradict the originally formulated hypotheses.

Keywords

  • Homeownership
  • Homevoter hypothesis
  • Noise pollution
  • Environmental activism
  • Political protest

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Notes

  1. 1.

    If not explicitly stated otherwise, the term “homeowners” is used as a shorthand for house and apartment owners; similarly, “renters” refers to both house and apartment renters.

  2. 2.

    To include aircraft noise as “environmental bad” makes sense because both Mainz and Zurich are located near international airports. Mainz (with about 220,000 inhabitants) is affected by Frankfurt Airport, which is about 25 km east of the city. Zurich (with about 430,000 inhabitants the biggest city of Switzerland) is affected by Zurich Airport, which is located about 10 km north of the city.

  3. 3.

    To provide an update to the Berlin aviation story, there was another referendum in September 2017, now making the case for a continued operation of Tegel. This referendum was also able to win over a majority of voters, and (because it was connected with a general federal election in Germany) it actually fulfilled the criterion of the quorum of 25% of all citizens of Berlin. However, the referendum was not legally binding and, thus, the Senate of Berlin decided in June 2018 that any further operating of Tegel was not a viable option. Since November 2020 Tegel Airport is actually closed, whereas Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport BER started operation in October 2020.

  4. 4.

    For practical reasons, the Dillman procedure was slightly modified in the Zurich survey (see Bruderer Enzler et al. 2019, Chap. 4).

  5. 5.

    Generally, the homeownership rate in Switzerland is lower than in Germany (38 vs. 53% at the national level), and in urban areas it is usually lower than in rural areas.

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Acknowledgments

Research for this paper was funded by the German Research Foundation DFG (projects PR 237/7-1 and KU 1926/3-1) and the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF (project 100017E-154251). I would like to thank Josef Brüderl, Claudia Diehl, Ivar Krumpal, Werner Raub, and Felix Wolter for helpful suggestions and comments.

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Preisendörfer, P. (2021). Green Homeowners? An Empirical Application of Fischel’s Homevoter Hypothesis. In: Krumpal, I., Raub, W., Tutić, A. (eds) Rationality in Social Science. Springer VS, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-33536-6_12

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-33536-6_12

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