It's a form of social payment -- and an advertisement
They're everywhere on election day: "I Voted" stickers. I've seen them on jackets and shirts and faces. If almost everybody's got one, it feels pointless to put one on your own sleeve.
But actually, the fact that everybody's got one is the point.
Why do people bother voting?
At a pure cost-benefit level, it's hard to justify taking hours out of your day to cast a single vote when the margin of victory can be counted in the tens of thousands. But today, millions of Americans will do just that. They will break out of this narrow boundary of economic rationalization, stand around in line for hours, and make democracy happen.
And yet, we vote. We vote because we think it's important. We vote because we care about our country and our rights. We vote because it makes us feel good. It has nothing to do with economics.
But that obvious answer hasn't dissuaded economists from wondering why millions of people choose to take so much time to do something with little benefit to them, personally. In one influential paper, economist Patricia Funk studied voting in Switzerland, where the government had created a vote-by-mail system to raise the country's sliding participation.