Article | American Economic Journal: Economic Policy | August 2014

Friends in High Places

by Lauren Cohen and Christopher Malloy


We demonstrate that personal connections amongst U.S. politicians have a significant impact on Senate voting behavior. Networks based on alumni connections between politicians are consistent predictors of voting behavior. We estimate sharp measures that control for common characteristics of the network, as well as heterogeneous impacts of a common network characteristic across votes. We find that the effect of alumni networks is close to 60% as large as the effect of state-level considerations. The network effects we identify are stronger for more tightly linked networks, and at times when votes are most valuable. We show that politicians use school ties as a mechanism to engage in vote trading ("logrolling"), and that alumni networks help facilitate the procurement of discretionary earmarks.

Keywords: vote trading; networks; legislation; logrolling; earmarks; Voting; Government Legislation; Social and Collaborative Networks; United States;


Cohen, Lauren, and Christopher Malloy. "Friends in High Places." American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 6, no. 3 (August 2014): 63–91.