Public Choice

, Volume 176, Issue 1–2, pp 297–314 | Cite as

External validation of voter turnout models by concealed parameter recovery

  • Antonio Merlo
  • Thomas R. PalfreyEmail author


We conduct a model validation analysis of several behavioral models of voter turnout, using laboratory data. We call our method of model validation concealed parameter recovery, where estimation of a model is done under a veil of ignorance about some of the experimentally controlled parameters—in this case voting costs. We use quantal response equilibrium as the underlying, common structure for estimation, and estimate models of instrumental voting, altruistic voting, expressive voting, and ethical voting. All the models except the ethical voting model recover the concealed parameters reasonably well. We also report the results of a counterfactual analysis based on the recovered parameters, to compare the policy implications of the different models about the cost of a subsidy to increase turnout.


Voter turnout Model validation Concealed parameter recovery Laboratory experiments 

JEL Classification

D72 C52 C92 



We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the National Science Foundation (SES-0962802, SES-1426560). We thank the participants at several seminar and conference presentations for their useful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rice UniversityHoustonUSA
  2. 2.California Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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