Testing the Participation Hypothesis: Evidence from Participatory Budgeting


This paper examines the impact of local participatory democracy initiatives on indi-vidual voter turnout in ordinary elections, using the example of participatory budg-eting (PB). Such initiatives often aspire to create more activated citizens, but there is still limited empirical research validating these claims. We link participants in New York City’s participatory budgeting process to their state voter file records to test whether PB increases participants' likelihood of voting in regular elections. We use coarsened exact matching to identify similar voters from council districts where PB was not implemented. Comparing PB voters to similar individuals who were not exposed to PB, we find that engaging with participatory budgeting increased indi-viduals' probability of voting by an average of 8.4 percentage points. In addition, we find that these effects are greater for those who often have lower probabilities of voting— young people, lower educated and lower income voters, black voters, and people who are the minority race of their neighborhood.

Political Behavior