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Quite an interesting research, considered worth it to share.

by Doug Gavel
Not every child in America has the opportunity to attend Fourth of July celebrations, but those that do are prone to be more politically engaged and associate more closely with the Republican Party than their peers. Those are two conclusions in a new research paper co-authored by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor David Yanagizawa-Drott and Bocconi University Assistant Professor Andreas Madestam.

The paper, titled “Shaping the Nation: Estimating the Impact of Fourth of July Using a Natural Experiment,” examines how important childhood experiences shape political views and behavior patterns later in life by investigating the impact of youth participation in Independence Day activities and adult engagement in the political process.

“In 2010, an estimated 144 million Americans age 18 or older celebrated Fourth of July by attending a barbecue. Another 98 million watched the fireworks or went to a community festivity, while more than 28 million saw a parade,” the authors write. “Beyond the immediate fervor of the festivity, however, do national day celebrations matter? Does participation in national ceremonies and parades have a deeper impact by affecting children’s political beliefs, identity, and behavior?”

Researchers face two main challenges when they examine how important formative experiences in childhood affect later-life outcomes. First, it is difficult to disentangle the causal impact of any particular experience – may it be the family, the education system, peers, or an event such as Fourth of July. Second, there is a lack of data linking childhood experiences to adult outcomes.

In their paper, the researchers use a simple but novel strategy to address these problems: they use historical data on rainfall on Fourth of July. When it rains children and their parents are less likely to participate and the events are often cancelled. Moreover, since rain is a random event, some children growing up experience nice weather and are more likely to celebrate, while others are hit by bad weather making it less likely that they join the festivities. This allows the researchers to isolate the effect of attending the celebrations from other important factors such as family background and education.

Key conclusions in the paper include:

• Fourth of July celebrations have a significant impact upon people’s political preferences;
• Attending one Fourth of July before age 18 increases the likelihood of identifying as a Republican by at least 2 percent and voting for the Republican candidate by 4 percent. It also increases voter turnout by 0.9 percent and boosts political campaign contributions by 3 percent.

“We were surprised to find that childhood experiences of Fourth July celebrations could have such persistent effects. The evidence suggests that important childhood events can have a permanent impact on political beliefs and behavior and that Fourth of July celebrations in the US affect the nation’s political landscape,” concludes Yanagizawa-Drott.

Here is the original research paper available for free download http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/dyanagi/Research/FourthOfJuly.pdf

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In his new book The Hidden Wealth of Nations (2010, Polity) David Halpern argues, primarily for Europe based on survey evidence, that despite ‘globalisation’ there are tendencies toward diverging values between countries, and converging values within countries.  He sees this as evidence for the enduring significance of national identities, as a kind of social capital that can enhance national well being (see pp 110-116).  You might want to check it out.  For more on the book:

http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745648019

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Just back from a really interesting meeting and conference in Antwerp to launch a trans-European research project on the historical development of national movements. The project is entitled NISE (National Movements and Intermediary Structure in Europe) and seeks to coordinate archival material on sub-state nations from across Europe (and perhaps Quebec too!). Watch this space for updates and check out: http://nise.eu/en/

The guest of honour at the conference was Miroslav Hroch, famous for his widely regarded analysis of the development of national movements, which identified their emergence from a period of limited scholarly interest, passing through a period of political agitation before becoming mass popular movements. Hroch has developed this analysis and has recently published this as Das Europa der Nationen. Die moderne Nationsbildung im europäischen Vergleich. For the non-German speakers, we can only hope that it won’t be too long before an English translation is available!

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Imagining Spain

Jan/Feb’s New Left Review carried a fascinating review, by Ronald Fraser, of Henry Kamen’s recent book Imagining Spain: Historical Myth and National Identity (Yale UP, 2008).

You can access the article at:

http://newleftreview.org.ezproxy.webfeat.lib.ed.ac.uk/?page=article&view=2768

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