The political economy of Vermont’s abortion bill

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Applied Economics Letters


Public choice literature divides the rationality of voting between instrumental and expressive. In this paper, we take the Vermont legislature in passing the H. 57 bill as a case to explain some of the determinants of expressive voting empirically. The H.57 bill declares that no government entity can interfere with, or restrict, a consenting individual’s right to abortion care across the entire gestation period. However, the bill has not changed the previously status quo of the state towards abortion rights. Thus, it creates a situation in which we can analyze the legislator’s voting behavior through the lens of an expressive voting framework. We utilize a high dimensional dataset and post-double-selection LASSO method to explain the channels that influence the expressive voting on the H. 57 bill. We web scrape the lower and upper chamber voting data on H.57 bill and use the 2017 American Community Survey 5-year estimates to retrieve 89 different socioeconomic, housing, and demographic characteristics of State Legislative Districts. Our results suggest channels of poverty, gender, and population diversity are some crucial mechanisms.


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