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Yosef Bhatti, Kasper M. Hansen, Elin Naurin, Dietlind Stolle & Hanna Wass

Can you deliver a baby and vote? The effect of the first stages of parenthood on voter turnout


Becoming a parent is a profound change in one’s life that likely has consequences for political mobilization. This paper focuses on the earliest stages of parenthood, which have rarely been theorized nor empirically investigated. Close to childbirth, there may be substantial demobilizing effects due to hospital stays, immediate childcare responsibilities, parenting distress and the physical burden of pregnancy and childbirth. It is unclear how sizeable these effects are on political demobilization as well as the extent to which they are long-lasting. Based on two individual-level register datasets from Denmark and Finland, we compare the voter turnout among parents in local elections across different dates of childbirth. We find a robust negative short-term effect. We also find that the recovery periods after childbirth are differentiated by gender, illustrating a somewhat stronger demobilizing effect of early stages of motherhood compared to the early stages of fatherhood. There are also some indications that recovery periods after childbirth are slower for women with higher socioeconomic backgrounds. Our study shows that childbearing and childbirth have strong demobilizing, although mostly temporary, implications for electoral participation, even in these strong welfare states.