Thanks for the votes

At 39, Dalton Conley is the chair of the New York University department of sociology. He’s also one of my favourite sociologists, having written about race, class, health, and biology. His work ranges across lived experience (including Honky, a superbly written book about race in America). But Dalton also uses natural experiment techniques much beloved of economists. His latest paper gives a sense of how close the work of many US economists and sociologists has become.

Bribery or Just Desserts? Evidence on the Influence of Congressional Voting Patterns on PAC Contributions from Exogenous Variation in the Sex Mix of Legislator Offspring
by Dalton Conley, Brian J. McCabe
Evidence on the relationship between political contributions and legislators’ voting behavior is marred by concerns about endogeneity in the estimation process. Using a legislator’s offspring sex mix as an exogenous variable, we employ a two-stage least squares estimation procedure to predict the effect of voting behavior on political contributions. Following previous research, we find that a legislator’s proportion daughters has a significant effect on voting behavior for women’s issues, as measured by score in the “Congressional Record on Choice” issued by NARAL Pro-Choice America. In the second stage, we make a unique contribution by demonstrating a significant impact of exogenous voting behavior on PAC contributions, lending credibility to the hypothesis that Political Action Committees respond to legislators’ voting patterns by “rewarding” political candidates that vote in line with the positions of the PAC, rather than affecting or “bribing” those same votes — at least in this high profile policy domain.

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One Response to Thanks for the votes

  1. Kevin Cox says:

    While the statistical approach is interesting and it might give us some clues as to what is important it seems to be a very hit and miss affair with respect to understanding cause and effect and of informing policy makers.

    Using this approach if I was an economist or a sociologist whose main tool was statistical analysis and I was tasked with devising a policy to reduce speeding on roads, I might look around for things I could measure easily and so I might start by observing speeding cars. I would see that red cars were statistically more likely to speed, and that cars that were of a low height would statistically be more likely to speed. If I stopped the cars and examined the people in the cars then I might find that the younger you were the more likely to speed. Does knowing that there is a strong relationship between low red cars driven by young drivers really help us all that much. If it is our objective to reduce the incidence of speeding then is this really the most effective way of tackling and understanding the problem? What seems to often happen is that policy makers are likely to ban young people from driving low red cars.

    Similarly if I am interested in preventing bribery of politicians is this the most effective way of understanding if there is a problem and if so what to do about it.

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