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Social Interactions and Legislative Activity

Nathan Canen, Matthew Jackson and Francesco Trebbi

Journal of the European Economic Association, 2023, vol. 21, issue 3, 1072-1118

Abstract: We develop a model of social interactions, as well as strategic interactions that depend on such social activity, and use it to measure social complementarities in the legislative process. Our model allows for partisan bias and homophily in the formation of relationships, which then impact legislative output. We use it to show how increased electoral competition can induce increased social behavior and the nonlinear effects of political polarization on legislative activity. We identify and structurally estimate our model using data on social and legislative efforts of members of each of the 105th–110th U.S. Congresses (1997–2009). We find large spillover effects in the form of complementarities between the efforts of politicians, both within and across parties. Although partisanship and preference differences between parties are significant drivers of socializing, our empirical evidence paints a less polarized picture of the informal connections of legislators than typically emerges from legislative votes alone.

Date: 2023
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