Recent Publications


Healy, Andrew, Neil Malhotra, and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo. 2015.Determining False Positives Requires Determining the Totality of EvidenceProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(48): E6591-E6591.


Abstract: Fowler and Montagnes independently replicate one finding in Healy et al.: that college football wins increase incumbent vote share. Although we interpret this result as evidence of irrelevant events impacting voters’ decisions, which is consistent with established theory in the psychological and decision sciences literatures, Fowler and Montagnes conclude that chance is responsible. False-positives can occur. Consequently, we performed several tests to address that possibility, but Fowler and Montagnes surprisingly ignore these analyses. Although replication and reanalysis are important to scientific discovery, one cannot selectively consider pieces of evidence when evaluating past research. Our consideration of the totality of evidence [the full results in Healy et al. and the new results in Fowler and Montagnes] leads us to conclude that college football games influence elections.


Healy, Andrew, and Gabriel Lenz. 2014. “Substituting the End for the Whole: Why Voters Respond Primarily to the Election-Year EconomyAmerican Journal of Political Science 58(1): 31-47. (Supporting Materials)


Abstract: According to numerous studies, the election-year economy influences presidential election results far more than cumulative growth throughout the term. Here we describe a series of surveys and experiments that point to an intriguing explanation for voter behavior that runs contrary to the standard explanations political science has offered, but one that accords with a large psychological literature. Voters, we find, actually intend to judge presidents on cumulative growth. However, since that characteristic is not readily available to them, voters inadvertently substitute election-year performance because it is more easily accessible. This “end-heuristic” explanation for voters’ election-year emphasis reflects a general tendency for people to simplify retrospective assessments by substituting conditions at the end for the whole. The end heuristic explanation also suggests a remedy, a way to align voters’ actions with their intentions. Providing people with the attribute they are seeking—cumulative growth—eliminates the election-year emphasis.


Healy, Andrew, Alexander Kuo, and Neil Malhotra. 2014. “Partisan Bias in Blame Attribution: When Does it Occur?Journal of Experimental Political Science 1(2): 144-158.


Abstract: How do citizens attribute blame in the wake of government failure? Does partisanship bias these attributions? While partisan cues may serve as useful guides when citizens are evaluating public policies, those cues are likely to be less informative and more distortionary when evaluating government performance regarding a crisis. We address these questions by examining blame attributions to government appointees for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We implement an experimental design in a nationally representative survey that builds on previous work in two ways: (1) we manipulate party labels for the same officials in a real-world setting by considering appointees who were nominated at different times by presidents of different parties; and (2) we examine how domain relevance moderates partisan bias. We find that partisan bias in attributions is strongest when officials are domain relevant, a finding that has troubling implications for representative democracy.


Healy, Andrew and Neil Malhotra. 2014. “Partisan Bias in Telephone Interviewing,” Public Opinion Quarterly 78(2): 485-499. (Supporting Materials)


Abstract: Survey researchers have long observed that demographic characteristics of interviewers such as race and gender affect survey responses as well as response rates. Building on this work, we address a previously unexplored question: Do interviewers’ partisan leanings bias data collection in telephone surveys? To do so, we leverage a unique dataset in which interviewers reported their partisan identifications before the survey was fielded. We find that interviewers are more likely to ascribe positive experiences to interviews with co-partisans. However, we find little evidence to suggest that interviewer partisanship biases interviewer ratings of respondents’ personal characteristics, the answers provided by respondents, item nonresponse, or the measurement error associated with those responses.


Healy, Andrew and Neil Malhotra. 2013. “Childhood Socialization and Political Attitudes: Evidence from a Natural Experiment,” Journal of Politics 75(4): 1023-1037. (Supporting Materials)


Abstract: Many scholars have argued that childhood experiences strongly impact political attitudes, but we actually have little causal evidence since many external factors that may influence preferences are correlated with the household environment. We utilize a younger sibling’s gender as an instrumental variable to identify the effect of growing up in a household with more female siblings and provide unique evidence of childhood political socialization. Having sisters causes young men to be substantially more likely to identify as Republicans and to express conservative viewpoints, particularly with regards to gender roles. We demonstrate these results in two panel surveys conducted decades apart: the Political Socialization Panel (PSP) and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). We also utilize NLSY data collected during childhood to uncover evidence for a potential underlying mechanism. The results demonstrate that previously understudied childhood experiences can have important causal effects on political attitude formation.


Healy, Andrew and Neil Malhotra. 2013. “Retrospective Voting Reconsidered,” Annual Review of Political Science 16: 285-306.


Abstract: Political science can gain from incorporating richer conceptions of social relations into its analyses. In place of atomistic entities endowed with assets but few social relationships, social actors should be seen as relational entities embedded in social and cultural structures that connect them to others in multifaceted ways. Understanding those relationships requires a deeper understanding of how institutional and cultural frameworks interact to condition the terrain for social action. More intensive dialogue with sociology can inform such an understanding. We review the analytical tools cultural sociology now offers those interested in such a perspective and illustrate it in operation in studies of inequalities in population health and the effects of neoliberalism. We close by outlining several issues to which this perspective can usefully be applied, including the problems of understanding social resilience, how societies build collective capacities, and why some institutions remain robust while others deteriorate.


Michelson, Melissa R., Neil Malhotra, Andrew Healy, Donald P. Green, Allison Carnegie, and Ali Adam Valenzuela. 2012. “The Effect of Prepaid Postage on Turnout: A Cautionary Tale for Election Administrators,” Election Law Journal 11(3): 279-290.


Abstract: In collaboration with local election officials, we conducted a randomized field experiment in which postage paid envelopes were provided to a random sample of 10,000 permanent vote-by-mail (VBM) voters in San Mateo County, California, in advance of the November 2, 2010, general election. We find that the treatment generated statistically significant but unexpected effects: postage-paid envelopes increased the probability that voters cast their ballots in person and decreased the probability that they cast their ballots by mail. These offsetting effects meant that the intervention produced no net change in voter turnout. We find that this pattern of countervailing effects is strongest among voters who frequently voted by mail in the past, those potentially most susceptible to disruptions in routine. Post-election interviews support the idea that the postage-paid envelopes created confusion for some voters. The results suggest that reforms designed to increase turnout by decreasing voting costs may have the unintended effect of disrupting routines.


Cole, Shawn, Andrew Healy, and Eric Werker. 2012. “Do Voters Demand Responsive Governments? Evidence from Indian Disaster Relief,” (lead article) Journal of Development Economics 97(2): 167-181.


Abstract: Using rainfall, public relief, and election data from India, we examine how governments respond to adverse shocks and how voters react to these responses. The data show that voters punish the incumbent party for weather events beyond its control. However, we find evidence that fewer voters punish the ruling party when the party responds vigorously to the crisis. Moreover, severe crises are associated with increased voter sensitivity to disaster assistance. These results provide an explanation for Amartya Sen’s claim that democratic governments respond better to salient emergencies than to less conspicuous ones. Even so, most responses to most crises leave the incumbent coalition worse off than had it not been in power during a crisis at all.


Healy, Andrew and Jennifer Pate. 2011. “Can Teams Help to Close the Gender Competition Gap?Economic Journal 121: 1192-1204.


Abstract: Previous research indicates that significant gender differences occur when experimental subjects choose whether or not to enter a competition. In terms of maximizing their payoffs in an experiment, for example, women have been shown to compete too little based on the quality of their performances, and men have been shown to compete too much. We investigate the potential for competing in teams to either reduce or eliminate these gender differences. We first replicate earlier findings of a gender gap in competitions based on individual performance. We then isolate the effect of competing in teams by having subjects participate in the same task and choose whether they want to enter a competition based on the combined performance of themselves and a teammate. The results show that competing in two-person teams reduces the gender competition gap by two-thirds. Regardless of the sex of one’s partner, female subjects prefer to compete in teams while male subjects prefer to compete as individuals. We find that this result appears to be driven primarily by gender differences in competitive preferences, as opposed to other potential explanations such as risk aversion or confidence.


VOX article      Media coverage: Guardian, The Glass Hammer


Healy, Andrew and Neil Malhotra. 2010. “Random Events, Economic Losses, and Retrospective Voting: Implications for Democratic Competence,” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 5(2): 193-208.


Abstract: We leverage the natural experiment afforded by tornado incidence to estimate the effect of exogenous economic loss on electoral outcomes. We find that voters punish the incumbent party in presidential elections for economic damage resulting from tornadoes. While this behavior could suggest that retrospective voting in this domain reflects voters irrationally blaming incumbent politicians for circumstances beyond their control, we instead find evidence suggesting that voting behavior reflects democratic competence. First, voters do not punish the incumbent party for tornado-caused deaths, which governments likely do not have the power to address with effective policy. Second, the incumbent party may actually gain votes when a disaster declaration is made in response to the tornado, only losing votes when no declaration takes place. Thus, voters appear to be rewarding and punishing government with respect to its performance in handling the disaster, as opposed to blaming the government for these natural events.


Healy, Andrew, Neil Malhotra, and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo. 2010.Irrelevant Events Affect Voters' Evaluations of Government Performance,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(29): 12804-12809.


Abstract: Does information irrelevant to government performance affect voting behavior? If so, how does this help us understand the mechanisms underlying voters’ retrospective assessments of candidates’ performance in office? To precisely test for the effects of irrelevant information, we explore the electoral impact of local college football games just before an election, truly irrelevant events that government has nothing to do with and for which no government response would be expected. We find that a win in the ten days before Election Day causes the incumbent to receive an additional 1.6 percentage points of the vote in Senate, gubernatorial, and presidential elections, with the effect being larger for teams with stronger fan support. In addition to conducting placebo tests based on post-election games, we also demonstrate these effects by using the betting market’s estimate of a team’s probability of winning the game before it occurs to isolate the surprise component of game outcomes. We corroborate these aggregate-level results with a survey that we conducted during the 2009 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament, where we find that surprising wins and losses affect presidential approval. An experiment embedded within the survey also indicates that personal well-being influences voting decisions on a subconscious level. We find that making people more aware of the reasons for their current state of mind reduces the effect that irrelevant events have on their opinions. These findings underscore both the subtle power of irrelevant events in shaping important real-world decisions, and suggest ways in which decision-making can be improved.


Media coverage: Reuters, Discover,, Scientific American (Also ABC, MSNBC, AP, The Economist), CNN International interview


Andam, Kwaw S., Paul J. Ferraro, Katharine R.E. Sims, Andrew Healy, and Margaret Holland. 2010. “Protected Areas Reduced Poverty in Costa Rica and Thailand,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(22): 9996-10001.


Abstract: Global efforts to protect ecosystems rely heavily on protected areas, but the socioeconomic impacts of these areas on neighboring communities are hotly debated. The debate persists because previous studies do not directly measure poverty and do not use appropriate comparison groups to account for baseline differences in affected communities. We use new comprehensive data sets and quasi-experimental matching methods to estimate impacts of protected area systems on poverty in Costa Rica and Thailand. Although communities near protected areas are indeed substantially poorer than national averages, an analysis based on comparison with appropriate controls does not support the hypothesis that these differences can be attributed to protected areas. In contrast, the results indicate protection alleviated poverty.


Healy, Andrew and Neil Malhotra. 2009. “Myopic Voters and Natural Disaster Policy,” American Political Science Review 103(3): 387-406.


Abstract: Using comprehensive data on natural disasters, government spending, and election returns, we show that voters reward disaster relief spending but not disaster prevention spending. This aspect of voter behavior creates a large distortion in the incentives that governments face, since the results demonstrate that prevention spending substantially reduces future damage. Even in their responses to disaster relief, voters do not effectively hold governments accountable for their actions, since they reward relief spending that is unrelated to disaster damage similarly to spending that is actually prompted by damage. While the results illustrate multiple failures in voters’ abilities to hold governments accountable, they also suggest that grass-roots efforts may help voters to reward government action that increases public welfare. Voters responded significantly to one particular disaster prevention program that emphasized communication and community involvement, behavior that stands in stark contrast to the ambivalence that voters display for prevention spending in general.


Replication archive     Media coverage: The New Yorker; NY Times' Freakonomics blog; EconLog; In Case of Emergency; CBS Sunday Morning story (with animation)


Healy, Andrew. 2009. “How Effectively Do People Learn from a Variety of Different Opinions?Experimental Economics 12(4): 386-416.


Abstract: This paper presents experimental evidence about how individuals learn from information coming from heterogeneous sources. In the experiment, Thai subjects observed information that came from Americans and other Thais that they could use to help them answer a series of questions. Despite listening too little to either group, subjects demonstrated a significant amount of statistical sophistication in how they weighed observed American information relative to observed Thai information. The data indicate that subjects understood that outside information has extra value because people from the same group tend to make the same kinds of mistakes. The results illustrate the importance of forming diverse groups to solve problems.


Healy, Andrew. 2008. “Do Firms Have Short Memories? Evidence from Major League Baseball,” Journal of Sports Economics 9(4): 407-424.


Abstract: When deciding what salary to offer an employee, a firm needs to predict that employee’s future productivity. One piece of information that a firm can use to predict productivity is the employee’s past performance record. Classical theory predicts that firms will effectively use the available information to choose an appropriate salary offer. Evidence from baseball contracts indicates, however, that memory-based biases influence salary offers. Consistent with insights from psychology and behavioral economics, salaries are affected too much by recent performance compared to past performance. All organizations do not suffer equally from short memories. The teams that achieve the most with the money that they spend also use past performance data most effectively.