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Trickle-Up Political Socialization: The Causal Effect on Turnout of Parenting a Newly Enfranchised Voter


Scholars have argued that children affect their parents’ political behavior, including turnout, through so-called trickle-up socialization. However, there is only limited causal evidence for this claim. Using a regression discontinuity design on a rich dataset, with validated turnout from subsets of Danish municipalities in four elections, I causally identify the effect of parenting a recently enfranchised voter. I consistently find that parents are more likely to vote when their child enters the electorate. On average across all four elections, I estimate that parents become 2.8 percentage points more likely to vote. In a context where the average turnout rate for parents is around 75%, this is a considerable effect. The effect is driven by parents whose children still live with them while there is no discernible effect for parents whose child has left home. The results are robust to a range of alternative specifications and placebo tests.

Corresponding author
Jens Olav Dahlgaard is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School, Steen Blichers Vej 22, DK-2000 Frederiksberg, Denmark (
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This research has primarily been funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research (Grant No. 12-124983). The project has also received funding from the Danish Youth Council, The Ministry of Children, Equality, Integration, and Social Affairs, and the Danish Parliament. I am grateful to Klaus Levinsen, Bolette Danckert, Jonas Hedegaard Hansen, Yosef Bhatti, Kasper Møller Hansen, Christian Rostbøll, Peter Thisted Dinesen, Martin Vinæs Larsen, Søren Serritzlew, Signe Hald Andersen, Lindsay Dolan, Jacob Gerner Hariri, David Dreyer Lassen, three anonymous reviewers, and discussants and panel participants in the 2015 yearly meeting of Midwestern Political Science Association, the 2015 yearly meeting of European Political Science Association, and the 2016 Youth Political Participation Conference at McGill for thoughts and comments on previous versions of this paper. A special thanks is dedicated to Alex Coppock and Don Green, both of whom have provided help beyond any reasonable expectation. All remaining errors are my responsibility. I was a PhD candidate at the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen when the manuscript was conceived and gratefully acknowledge the general support during this time. All replication data and code is available for replication except when explicitly exempted. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:

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American Political Science Review
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Dahlgaard Dataset

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Dahlgaard supplementary material 1

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