I combine a field experiment with a change in voting laws reducing the fine for abstention to assess the effects of monetary incentives to encourage voter participation. In a real world election, using individual-level experimental variation in the perceived reduction of the fine for abstention and an objective measure of turnout, I estimate that a 10 percent decrease in the cost of abstention reduces the probability of voting by 2.2 percentage points. As predicted by the model presented, the reduction in turnout is driven by voters who (i) are in the center of the political spectrum, (ii) hold less political information and (iii) have lower subjective value of voting. The increase in abstention does not change aggregate preferences for specific policies, on average. Further, involvement in politics, as measured by the decision to acquire political information, seems to be independent of the level of the fine.
Published as: Turnout, political preferences and information: Experimental evidence from Peru in Journal of Development Economics , Vol. 127, 56-71, February, 2017