People send us junk mail because it works

So says this NBER paper:

During the contest for Kansas attorney general in 2006, an organization sent out 6 pieces of mail criticizing the incumbent’s conduct in office. We exploit a discontinuity in the rule used to select which households received the mailings to identify the causal effect of mail on vote choice and voter turnout. We find these mailings had both a statistically and politically significant effect on the challenger’s vote share. Our estimates suggest that a ten percentage point increase in the amount of mail sent to a precinct increased the challenger’s vote share by approximately three percentage points. Furthermore, our results suggest that the mechanism for this increase was persuasion rather than mobilization.

The authors are  Alan Gerber, Daniel Kessler, and Marc Meredith.

Tim Harford’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

Tim, also known as the Undercover Economist, writes about the economics of everyday life.