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Shaping the Nation: the Effect of Fourth of July on Political Preferences and Behavior in the United States

By Andreas Madestam and David Yanagizawa-Drott

Do childhood events shape adult political views and behavior? This paper investigates the impact of Fourth of July celebrations in the US during childhood on partisanship and participation later in life. Using daily precipitation data to proxy for exogenous variation in participation on Fourth of July as a child, we examine the role of the celebrations for people born in 1920-1990. We find that days without rain on Fourth of July in childhood have lifelong effects. In particular, they shift adult views and behavior in favor of the Republicans and increase later-life political participation. Our estimates are significant: one Fourth of July without rain before age 18 raises the likelihood of identifying as a Republican by 2 percent and voting for the Republican candidate by 4 percent. It also increases voter turnout by 0.9 percent and boosts political campaign contributions by 3 percent. Taken together, the evidence suggests that important childhood events can have persistent effects on political beliefs and participation and that Fourth of July celebrations in the US affect the nation’s political landscape.

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Last updated November 24, 2011