DP14702 Salience and Accountability: School Infrastructure and Last-Minute Electoral Punishment

Author(s): Nicolas Ajzenman, Ruben Durante
Publication Date: May 2020
Date Revised: August 2020
Keyword(s): Argentina, Education, Elections, Salience, School Infrastructure
JEL(s): D72, D91, H41
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14702

Can seemingly unimportant factors influence voting decisions by making certain issues salient? We study this question in the context of Argentina's 2015 presidential elections by examining how the quality of the infrastructure of the school where citizens were assigned to vote influenced their voting choice. Exploiting the quasi-random assignment of voters to ballot stations located in different public schools in the City of Buenos Aires, we find that individuals assigned to schools with poorer infrastructure were significantly less likely to vote for Mauricio Macri, the incumbent mayor then running for president. The effect is larger in low-income areas - where fewer people can afford private substitutes to public education - and in places where more households have children in school age. The effect is unlikely to be driven by information provision, since information on public school infrastructure was readily available to parents before elections. An alternative interpretation is that direct exposure to poor school infrastructure at the time of voting makes public education - and the poor performance of the incumbent - more salient.