Friday, March 15, 2013

Suburban voters

This morning I uploaded my most recent working paper to my webpage.  The title is California Voting and Suburbanization Patterns: Implications for Transit Policy.  It is joint with Matt Kahn and was sponsored by the Mineta Transportation Institute.  We'd welcome any comments as we finalize this manuscript for publication.  Here is the abstract:

Public transit is an environmentally friendly transportation mode that mainly focuses on transporting people within and to the city center.  But, over the last 60 years population and employment has been suburbanizing.   As the median voter lives further from the city center, and thus enjoys fewer benefits from accessing public transit, does this reduce such a voter’s propensity to support public investment in public transit improvements?  We analyze voting patterns on twenty transit related ballot propositions from state-wide elections in California between 1990 and 2010.  Controlling for demographic, socio-economic and political ideological factors, we focus on the role of suburbanization as a possible causal factor in determining public support for public transit investment.  The results provide a rich picture of the attitudes towards transportation policy among California voters, and will help policy makers to better understand citizen preferences and to better predict how future trends will shift support towards or against transit.  Finally, we suggest ways policy makers can use urban land markets to increase support for transit.

In this paper we include several neat figures and a bunch of tables of regression results.  The paper is very long but it tells a simple story: voters behave in ways consistent with their pocketbooks, and this includes voting to protect the value of their homes.

To me, the most interesting aspect of this paper is that we are using voting data to test hypotheses from urban economics.  Integrating public and urban economics is something I focused on in my Ph.D. dissertation, and after a five year detour into other areas of economics, I am very happy to be back working on this fascinating topic!