The Divide Over Independence: Explaining Preferences for Secession in an Advanced Open Economy (with Didac Queralt)

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Anticipated trade, insurance, and fiscal shocks from independence structure preferences for secession independently from nonmaterial considerations. To test this claim, we draw from an original survey conducted in Catalonia before the 2017 regional election, which followed a suspended declaration of independence. Trade shocks produce differential effects depending on market specialization: Respondents working in sectors and at firms specializing in the host state market disproportionately oppose secession, whereas those specializing in foreign markets show no aversion to independence. Exclusion from public insurance strengthens preference for secession among the long-term unemployed. Support for secession also increases with skill levels but not because of expected postindependence factor returns. The skilled population show better understanding of the institutional design of interterritorial redistribution. In a context of autonomy retraction, this group is more skeptical of the accommodation of regional demands within the union. Overall, we advance an individual-level materialistic approach to the study of secession.